Top lane is a highly contested role in the LPL. It’s difficult to pick out a top 5 when there are so many laners that bring different benefits to their team. From Flandre’s consistency to Ale’s pure 1v1 potential, top lane is a role that features a wide variety of skillsets across every LPL team. However, out of every top laner, these 5 stand out from the crowd by mastering their style and contributing to their team more than the competition.
5. Deng “Shanji” Zi-Jian — OhMyGod
2022 has brought with it some of the best rookies China has had in years, to the point where some even stand head and shoulders above players that have been in the LPL for years. Going into the Demacia Cup, Shanji was an unproven rookie on an ailing OMG that has been doomed to mediocrity for years. Within a matter of weeks, he's managed to breathe life into OMG and give them a chance at being a top 5 LPL team.
Whether Shanji gets weaksided and relegated to being a teamfight menace late-game, or if OMG drop an airstrike on the enemy toplaner early-game and blow the lane open, Shanji’s been a key part of his team's solid opening week. Even through a rough best-of-5 against LNG in the Demacia Cup, Shanji lost lane gracefully and did his best to find a way back into the game for his team. OMG have a high ceiling, and they may reach it thanks to Shanji’s versatility and team-focused mentality.
4. Hu “Ale” Jia-Le — LNG Esports
Ale’s 2021 performance put him on the map internationally. After tearing up every top laner at Worlds and almost carrying LNG to quarterfinals, Ale graduated 2021 as one of the best top lanes in the world. But 2022 has not been kind. Despite a world-shattering international performance, Ale hasn’t been nearly as strong in the LPL proper.
1v1's are what Ale’s known for. He’s the best duelist in China and he knows it. Even at a numbers disadvantage, Ale will challenge with the confidence that he can overcome any obstacle with pure mechanical skill. While this approach makes him a fun player to watch, he's also a resource-intensive player. Now that LNG have Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang, it’s only natural they funnel resources toward mid lane, leading to the frequent first bloods onto Ale.
Fortunately, Ale is great at recovering from an early deficit through good sidelaning and strong teamfighting. He still has a place on this list due to his mechanical prowess, but LNG need to figure out who’s the star of the show on their team. Should Ale be picking champs like Jax or Fiora that he can carry with, or does he need to step back and let Doinb take the spotlight? Ale’s the best 1v1 player in China, but that doesn’t make him the best top laner.
3. Zhang “Zoom” Xing-Ran — Top Esports
Zoom, along with jungler Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok, kept JDG alive through 2021 by having one of the most lethal topside combos in the LPL. Despite the rest of the team being somewhat mediocre, Zoom stood out as a top laner by doing exactly what his team needed him to do. Whether it was sidelaning and scaling into the late game on champs like Camille and Jayce, or leading the charge with teamfighters like Ornn and Renekton, Zoom made magic happen on JDG. And his time on Top Esports has been no different.
In a role that tends to be so risky, Zoom is someone that actively mitigates risk for whatever team he’s on. It can be hard to quantify just how much he brings to a team since Zoom tends to have low kill participation — not that he needs kills to have an impact. If Zoom can zone the enemy jungler and take a wave in the process, he would gladly skip fighting over an objective. And, when it matters most, Zoom is a fantastic teamfighter who makes it incredibly difficult to find a significant advantage against TES.
Zoom has furthermore quickly adapted to playing with jungler Wang “Xiaopeng” Peng after the swap out of Gao “Tian” Tian-Lang Zoom’s ability to roll with the punches and find ways to be relevant in any game make him an invaluable asset to any team he’s on.
2. Ping “Xiaolaohu” Xiao-hu — FunPlus Phoenix
It’s rare to find a top lane prodigy like Xiaolaohu. Even before pushing FPX to a strong opening week in the LPL and the Demacia Cup Finals, Xiaolaohu was insanely good. During the 2021 LPL Summer Split, Xiaolaohu got subbed in for FPX’s set against EDG and hard-carried the game while winning the lane against Flandre. Xiaolaohu was good enough back then to be an outright improvement over Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon, and he’s even better now.
Xiaolaohu has the ability to play for teamfights, and he has no problem finding solo kills on the enemy top laner, but his greatest strength is his ability to “win more”. Winning a fight and taking an objective is one thing, but Xiaolaohu is the sort of player that will find a way to steal away jungle, push out lanes, and zone the enemy team away from objectives.
Being a "win more player" that always looks for a lead usually takes years of experience but Xiaolaohu is already there. The phoenix-like narrative for FPX is so tired at this point, but it’s hard to deny that, somehow, FunPlus Phoenix’s rosters always manage to put themselves on top. With so few weaknesses and so many strengths, Xiaolaohu is the rising star of the LPL.
1. Li “Flandre” Xuan-Jun — EDward Gaming
Flandre isn’t the most flashy player. He’s often overshadowed by his teammates, and EDG’s victory at Worlds isn’t often attributed to him. However, he tops this list by just how damn resilient he is. Making a big splash with so few resources is a skill in and of itself, and Flandre is a weakside king capable of working under the worst of circumstances.
EDG are a team defined by how well they play the map, and Flandre is a big part of that philosophy. If you camp Flandre, he’ll stay in the game. If you leave him alone, he’ll win trades in lane and find a lead on his own. What’s more, he has great synergy with the rest of EDG and can easily set up plays at any point of the game. Flandre is an unsolvable problem for most teams. His fantastic spacing and macro play make him incredibly difficult to shut down. For EDG, Flandre is the glue that makes everything come together.
Carver is an esports journalist and analyst who specializes in Eastern League of Legends.