Aphelios is starting to pop up in the top lane after being thrown out of the bottom lane meta a few patches ago.
Aphelios entered League of Legends in December 2019 and quickly took over in the bot lane as one of the strongest picks. Riot had trouble balancing the complex marksman and ultimately ended up gutting him this year after months of dominance in both solo queue and professional play.
Now that Aphelions has been out of the meta and was barely picked at the 2020 World Championship, he might make his return in the top lane. Invictus Gaming star top laner Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok recently started picking him for the top lane, seemingly as a new lane bully champion for his arsenal of champions.
As soon as Nuguri arrived in Korea, the World Champion began playing some solo queue games, and
He seems decently inspired by TheShy’s top Aphelios.
I said, top Aphelios. pic.twitter.com/X6UvfXj6Th
— Ashley Kang #Worlds2020 (@AshleyKang) November 2, 2020
The trend already seems to be spreading among professional top laners, as the newly crowned world champion Jang “Nuguri” Ha-gwon from DAMWON Gaming has been picking up Aphelios after arriving back in Korea.
What these two players have in common is that they are known for their lane dominance and their ability to deny the enemy a lot of gold and experience. They have achieved this through lane bullies such as Lucian and Kalista in the past, and Aphelios could potentially be the next in line.
Nuguri seems to be building the damage-heavy route with a singular objective of killing the opponent and pushing down the tower. With an Infinity Edge followed up by two Zeal items, Nuguri is showcasing his aggressive and dominant style that played a part in DAMWON’s recent success at Worlds.
Whether it’s just a fun pick in solo queue or if the top laners will consider it for professional play is hard to say, and will also depend on the upcoming season 11 item overhaul.
Aphelios in the top lane isn’t a pick that many would have predicted, but it does have some strengths in a solo lane. Aphelios has four different weapons to choose from and is therefore quite versatile when it comes to poking down the opponent. Against the usual melee top laners especially, Aphelios can be a bully that will deny farm and experience if played correctly.
The big downsides to Aphelios will always be that he doesn’t have any mobility and therefore often relies on teammates to protect him. This won’t be possible in the top lane, so it requires a lot of confidence to pull out an Aphelios, especially in professional play.
Only very skilled individual players such as TheShy and Nuguri can make a champion like Aphelios work in the top lane, and even then it can be hard. Aphelios is easily punished through ganks, and Aphelios doesn’t do much when behind.
Some specific metas could make Aphelios a viable pick for the top lane in some matchups, but it’s hard to imagine a world where Lucian and Kalista wouldn’t be better options.
Don’t yet expect Aphelios to be picked in professional games in the 2021 season, but it might start showing up in solo queue.