League of Legends Beginners Guide: What are the Lanes?

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /
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Ornn. League of Legends.
League of Legends. Photo courtesy of Riot Games. /

We break down all the lanes so that beginners can understand, starting with the top lane.

Top lane

The top lane runs, well, across the top of the map. Starting at the northeast corner of the map (at the red team’s nexus), the top lane runs along the top boundary of the Rift until it hits the northwest corner. It then runs down the left-side boundary until it reaches the opposite (blue) nexus, thus connecting the two bases.

The top lane runs by each team’s same side of the jungle – that is by the blue side of the jungle for the blue team and the red side of the jungle for the red team. If you don’t know what blue and red side of the jungle are, don’t worry that will be explained in our separate article about the jungle.

The lane is divided down the middle by the river, which runs across the map from the northwest to southeast corners (but it stops at the lane). If you walk from the top lane down the river, you’ll come to a circular opening jutting towards the top-side of the river. This is the pit that will spawn the Rift Herald, and then later Baron Nashor (we’ll talk more about those in another article too).

You may, on occasion, see a little bug guy wandering across the river too. That’s the Scuttle Crab, don’t mind her. She won’t attack you.

Notice that there is a similar pit jutting towards the bottom side of the river on the bottom half of the map towards the bottom lane. This is the dragon pit, and its positioning explains what makes top lane so unique compared to the others.

You see, the dragon (also known as “drakes”) spawns earlier (at the 5:00 mark of the game) and more often (every five minutes after the dragon is killed another one spawns) than the Rift Herald (which spawns at 9:50 and can only be killed once) or Baron (first spawns at 20:00 and respawns every six minutes thereafter) near your lane. Because there will be more opportunities to take the dragon earlier than the Rift Herald, the action in the early part of the game tends to be more focused around it and thus towards the bottom half of the map.

As a result, top laners are often forced to fend for themselves and get fewer visits (or “ganks”) from their allies to help them. Top lane is often referred to as an “island” because for large portions of the game it will just be you and the opposing team’s top laner squaring off.

Because top laners need to be able to hold their own, the types of champions played there need to be fairly self-sufficient. Generally, champions that have a lot of survivability like tanks or fighters will be played in the top lane, since they can farm and not need protection from their allies.

However, carries like assassins can also be played top, since they could have the advantage of getting to kill their opponent over and over again without the enemy coming to disrupt them. Finally, some mages and marksmen will be played top lane. Since those two classes tend to be very squishy, the ones that succeed top tend to have either a lot of survivability (for instance, a mage like Swain who can heal a lot through his ultimate ability), crowd control (a marksman like Quinn who can knock her enemies away and blind them), or mobility (the mage Kennen can speed up at will to run away from chasing enemies).