Warding 101: Guide to Top Lane

Warding is the backbone of winning: it’s crucial in every stage of every single game! Just look at professional League of Legends teams, like SK Telecom T1: this all-star lineup prioritizes map control, as it is the prerequisite for taking key objectives. They’ll often invest substantial resources (time, gold, and the presence of multiple team members) to establish dominance over an area before pushing on and claiming the desired objective! Regardless of whether you’re aiming for a tower, Drake, Herald, Baron, or other buffs, vision gives you the information to make correct decisions. Quoting Sun Tzu in the Art of War: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win!”


There are many things to think about in each game, but even if you play a blind monk map visibility is a priority! There are three basic reasons to ward:

  • Safety: providing security for teammates to farm or push, although we need to remain conscious of factors such as global Ultimates, Teleports, invisibility, etc.
  • Preparation: spotting enemy movements and avoiding or countering their rotations.
  • Map control: taking control of the area around an objective, or setting up the ability to Teleport to a strategic location!

Each of these factors is essential to victory, but theory is no use without experience! Let’s dive into a discussion of where you should be watching as a Top Laner; alternatively, check here for my guide to Bot Lane warding!



Warding to Win: Top Lane


The Top Laner is a lone wolf, fighting his battles without aid from the team during the early stages of the game. In this role, you’re in charge of your lane and responsible for warding it correctly! In most games, there will be occasional interaction with Junglers, sometimes with Mid and very rarely with Bot. Since you can only control your champion, you’ve got to make sure you’re safe and alive to farm up for the mid game. It’s always nice when your Jungler helps out with a Control Ward, but you can’t depend on that!


Warding Totem is the only real choice for starting trinket on Top. Personally, I often hold onto to a Warding Totem the whole game long, because I split push frequently and having two reliable wards is awesome. Occasionally upgrading to Farsight is a good idea: if your team doesn’t have one, you’re playing a squishy champion, or if you don’t split push, you should upgrade! As for Oracle, it’s an option but suboptimal if you’re frequently solo.


Blue Side – Early Game



Here you can see the areas you need to watch when playing as Blue Side. There are two priority spots: use #1 when enemy pushes towards you and #2 when you push the opponent. These are also the best places to check with your Control Ward. It’s important to keep in mind that warding the #2 spot can expose you to a gank from the river. Play with caution when you push to the tower and don’t know the position of the enemy jungler! If you’re feeling fearful, you can ward the #1 spot from the cliff above; by doing so you can safely check a spot where the enemy jungler might be lying in wait for you!


There are five situational ward locations – let’s examine each in turn! #1 can be placed around 1:40 into the game if your Jungler is exposed to a counter-jungle threat. #2 is especially good when the enemy Top Laner is pushing you under tower and there’s dive potential. #1 is also a good counter to ganks, but you will seldom have time to go there and ward. #3 and #4 serve dual purposes, both defensively (enemy Jungler might gank you there) and offensively (as Teleport locations). The #5 ward can be used to spot the Jungler for the information or to coordinate an invade. Communicate with your Jungler or Mid to back you up if you go for the gank – not necessarily by joining, just being aware of what you’re doing and ready to react.



Finally there’s Rift Scuttler: killing this monster grants a great experience, gold, and vision bonus – if you can manage it efficiently! Early game you can only slay the Crab with champions that don’t rely on mana (like Riven or Yasuo). You don’t want to invest a large portion of your mana and time for the Scuttler. In addition, the river is commonly warded and you need to be aware of the position of both the enemy Jungler and Mid. To make things easier, remember to crowd control the Crab! Such effects last twice as long against her, and cause her to take bonus damage, plus permanently lose armor and magic resist. One final tip: Rift Scuttler always runs away, so position yourself to “chase” it towards your lane and waste less time!


Purple Side – Early Game



These are the areas you need to ward early when playing from Purple Side. The spots are the same, but the prioritization and reasons differ! The #1 red spot is perhaps most important: if you get ganked from there, it’s very challenging to survive! Sometimes running towards river is the best way to escape. The #2 spot is mandatory if you’re pushing to the enemy tower.


Among situational wards, #1 can be used to protect your Jungler just like on Blue Side. For #2 and #3, the reasoning is the same as Blue Side’s #3 and #4. #4 is tricky: when you’re constantly pushing the enemy to tower and you already have a Control Ward on priority spot #2, warding at #4 can keep you extra safe. This is risky though, since if the enemy Jungler is already there when you go to ward, you’re probably dead! A good time to ward is when the enemy Top has left the lane and is soon to return. Lastly, #5 is there for the same reason as on Blue Side!


Blue Side – Mid / Late Game



As we enter the mid game, warding becomes more complex because so many variables are added! As time wears on, towers are destroyed, players roam, and pressure mounts to take key objectives… If you want a more complete picture of the options, check out my Bot Lane guide as well! To keep things simple, I’ve divided priority warding into aggressive (you’re defending your tower and pressuring the opponents’) and defensive (the opponents are pressuring your tower and defending their own).


There are two primary aggressive priorities; both of these are places that are smart to check with a Control Ward. Use #1 when you haven’t yet taken down the tower, and #2 when you’re actively sieging for the inner tower! Control Ward isn’t mandatory for the #2 spot, but it’s a great position because this route is used much less. As for the defensive priorities, Control Ward and Warding Totem at #1 is usually enough for the mid game. There are a lot of situational warding spots: think ahead and decide which to use depending on the objective you prioritize. Finally, remember to keep vision over Baron once the game has gone long enough!


Purple Side – Mid / Late Game



Many of the principles are the same from the prior section: aggressive priorities depend on whether you’re focusing on the inner tower or the Mid / Herald / Baron area. Ideally, a teammate will cover #1 so you can ward #2 and one of the other situational spots. The defensive priorities are similar to those for Blue side; your goals should be directly linked to the condition of your inner towers. If they still hold, try to ward at #2; if it has fallen, #1. Control Ward is also important in these locations, so don’t forget to coordinate with your teammates!



Warding is a tremendously complex game within a game, but it offers many ways to outplay the enemy. Take this advice to heart and you’ll see huge changes: keep yourself safe, and never lose sight of the objectives! If you play with an eye towards the game’s tempo, it’ll be far easier to discern what your foes are trying to do – and to smash their plans! I hope you learned from my Warding Guides, and keep an eye out for the next part in a couple weeks… Remember, warding keeps you safe: you should always have protection!


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