Now that we are about halfway through the 2017 Mid-Season Invitational Tournament in Brazil, we have begun to see a trend in the toplane. Tanks have always been prevalent top for a number of reasons. They generally have safe laning phases, freeing up the jungler to impact the rest of the map and control dragon, and if they do end up behind in items, they generally can still contribute to teamfights through their crowd-control based kits. Another reason we see them in top is for using teleport to gank botlane or to easily disrupt enemy toplaner teleports.
However, we are now seeing a certain specific build infiltrate top lane tanks. On first back, they pick up two or even three Doran’s Rings to return to lane with, and selling them off later as they need inventory space for higher tier items. On the surface, this seems like a strange pick for tanks, but taking into account the current meta on the pro scene, we can discover a few perks to this build path. Let’s break down why pros are prioritizing this build.
First, let’s study Doran’s Ring’s stats. For 400 gold, you get:
+50% base mana regeneration
+15 ability power
Passive: Restores 4 mana upon killing a unit.
Doran’s items are highly gold-efficient, granting undercosted stats at the disadvantage of not building into any more powerful items. Doran’s Ring specifically is 184% gold efficient even excluding the passive ability. Stacking Doran’s Rings, or any Doran’s item will provide early stacks of stats, and for 400 gold are the most cost-efficient items in the game.
Additionally, Doran’s Ring provides every stat that a toplane ability power tank will need during the laning phase. The extra health can help survive bruiser or bully matchups, or simply provide durability against a tank mirror match. The ability power is a nice bonus to damage for trading potential, but the increased damage to minions is actually more important. Mana regen and the passive ability also help sustain when hard pushing lanes.
So, it has been established that pushing the top lane is important, but exactly why is actually a result of the current meta in pro play. Currently, we are seeing an emphasis on taking the first tower in the bottom lane. Often, teams will pull the jungler and even possibly the midlaner to fight at dragon or to pressure the bottom lane turret. After taking the first turret in botlane, the ADC will usually sit in the midlane, simply farming safely and providing presence in a wider area on the map. Increased priority on dragons due to the unusual number of infernal and mountain drakes spawning during this tournament also means that there are more fights over dragon.
More late laning-phase movement and fighting means that top laners need to be able to repeatedly push their lanes into the enemy tower and pressure it. This way, either they can rotate or teleport down for a teamfight, leaving their tower safe, or they can stay in lane and stop an enemy rotation or threaten to take down the tower. The Doran’s Ring build is focused on being able to consistently push lanes and either participate elsewhere on the map or punish enemies who do not match the pressure.
Emphasizing Strengths and Weaknesses
Doran’s Rings provide great stats for the gold and round out a tank’s stats, giving them everything they really want early in the game. However, this early game spike does come at the cost of delaying scaling items by a short time due to poor resale value on Doran’s items. If players have been able to back at good times to purchase two full items without having to purchase many different components separately, they will begin to have to sell off the rings around the 25 minute mark.
This is generally around the time when all outer turrets have been destroyed, and teams are looking to take a first or second inner turret, look to get a few picks and rush down an early baron or secure a free dragon. If the triple ring start has allowed the team to get ahead or stay even, the slightly delayed power spikes in a tank can easily be ignored. However, if they have fallen behind elsewhere on the map, a fed enemy ADC can spell disaster for an under-itemized tank around 25-30 minutes.
If the enemy manages to hold their top tower, or simply gives it up in exchange for a bigger swing in objectives elsewhere, this strategy can be rendered obsolete and do no more than put an already behind team even more in the hole. The key for teams playing against this strategy will be to make decisions and go hard in on them. This is essentially an early tank-splitpush build, so teams need to look at their top lane picks, and the other four champions as a group and decide if they have an advantage as a four-stack, matching top lane pressure, or if they need to group as five and hard push an objective elsewhere on the map.