Our guide to the best League of Legends early game champions picks out some of the best champs to snowball with in the early game.
Champions in League of Legends all go through their peaks and troughs - some excel in the laning phase, while others gradually ramp up as the game matures, reaching their true potential when fully kitted out with items.
It's knowing where these power spikes lie which will maximise your effectiveness in a match, as you'll know when to press the advantage over an opponent whose champion may be much weaker than yours at a specific stage.
With this in mind, we've picked out five of the best early game champions in League of Legends. While they aren't always guaranteed to destroy your opponents from the get-go, they do offer high base damage, incredibly effective early abilities or excellent duelling skills in lane which can help you build an early lead and take control of a game from the start.
Pantheon's an incredibly powerful duelist who can assert control over the top lane by out-poking and out-trading his opponent, which makes him a great choice for those who want to get an early lead. Once they’re vulnerable, he can leap in with lockdown and some surprising burst to secure kills.
Spear Shot can help you damage opponents or kill creeps from afar, and once you see an opening you can leap to your target with Aegis of Zeonia and press the advantage.
Meanwhile, Heartseeker Strike is also very useful, not just for its active effect, but mainly the passive bonus, which makes Pantheon’s basic attacks and Spear Shot always crit against enemies below 15% health. Perfect for laying down a nice chunk of extra damage to finish off weak or fleeing targets.
In addition, using all of these abilities also empowers Pantheon’s passive, Aegis Protection. After landing four basic attacks or abilities, he is able to block the next incoming hit from a champion or turret, which only strengthens his duelling capabilities at the start of the game more. Handily, casting Aegis of Zeonia also refreshes his passive, guaranteeing an additional block when you go in for a trade or kill.
As you reach the end of the early game, Pantheon can also use his Grand Skyfall ultimate to put pressure on other lanes, bringing his impressive kill potential to catch out enemy champions who aren’t expecting to be outnumbered in a skirmish.
Talon’s early game strengths make him excellent at assassinating squishy targets with rapid burst damage, while also roaming the map to press those advantages in other lanes. With that strong lead established you can continue to play aggressively, and aim to close out the win with your team as quickly as possible.
His kit is a nightmare for weaker targets to deal with when they come up against Talon in lane. For the most effectiveness, you’ll want to get as much value as you can out of his passive, Blade’s End. This applies a Wound to enemy champions when they take damage from Talon’s abilities, stacking up to three times.
An auto-attack from Talon triggers these Wounds to deal bleed damage over time, with more damage caused depending on how many Wounds are on the target. Applied correctly, you can rapidly stack these Wounds and then trigger them to deal significant burst damage to a target.
For example, you can cast Rake to fling a volley of daggers out towards your opponent and then wait for them to return to apply two stacks while also safely clearing creeps. Then, you can follow that up immediately with Noxian Diplomacy to leap onto a target, apply the last Wound, then activate them with an auto-attack. That can drastically injure a target or outright kill them in the early game.
Using Assassin's Path to get into better positions to execute these surprise attacks also makes Talon such a menace early on. Meanwhile, his ultimate, Shadow Assault, can provide even more opportunities to secure kills and snowball in the early game, or escape with your life from a failed assassination attempt.
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The Noxian bruiser has always been an imposing presence throughout the early stages of a League of Legends match in top lane, with some strong harass, reasonable sustain and the power to go toe-to-toe with many lane opponents.
A big part of Darius’ early game strength is his Hemorrhage passive, which builds up a powerful damage over time effect on targets hit by his attacks or abilities. You’ll want to find opportunities to stack this on enemy champions, and maintain those stacks so that they are constantly bleeding to death. It also means you don’t have to aggressively commit to engagements all the time – just land a few hits and watch as their health bar is steadily whittled away.
The ability that’s best used to apply these Hemorrhage stacks is Decimate. This swings Darius’ axe is a fairly wide circle around him, while also healing him for each champion hit. Positioning is very important to get the most out of this skill, though, as enemies will only take the full damage (and gain a stack of Hemorrhage) if hit by the blade. Move to close to a target and they’ll be hit by the shaft, which drastically reduces the effectiveness of the attack to render it almost worthless.
Keep up this level of poke and you should soon have an opening to commit more strongly to an engagement that will secure you a kill. You can use Apprehend to pull the target towards you, stop them from escaping with a Crippling Strike, and then finish them off with Noxian Guillotine if you’ve reached Level 6.
Riven is a tough fighter who can chain together her abilities in unique combos that help her stick to targets, take down her top lane opponent early to secure first blood, and snowball into a lead that can carry the team throughout the start of a match.
Mastering her Broken Wings ability is a key part of controlling and winning the early game contests with your lane opponent. The ability itself goes through three separate moves with each button press: the first two are basic slashes forward, while the third and final hit delivers a downward slam that knocks opponents into the air.
Timed well, you can weave auto-attacks between these strikes to ensure you’re taking advantage of the extra damage from Riven’s Runic Blade passive too. You can also add in her other two skills, Ki Burst and Valor, to temporarily stun or keep the distance close between you and your target.
While it can be very tempting to use Valor to chase down a fleeing opponent (and you probably should if you can confirm a kill), it’s often best used to safely escape from a skirmish and protect yourself from taking any damage in a trade. If you have her ultimate, Blade of the Exile, that is often best used to finish off an out of range opponent, as the shockwave flies a reasonable distance.
It’s a formidable and versatile kit that can make Riven a truly oppressive lane bully. It certainly takes practice, but once you’ve got to grips with her main abilities you’ll be outfoxing your lane opponents with ease, and then carry that lead as the game develops.
One for the ADC players out there, Caitlyn is excellent in the early game mostly due to her ability to out-poke opposing champions in the bot lane with her superior range and potentially lethal burst damage.
As a hero with one of the highest base attack ranges in the game, it’s best to use that to your advantage as much as possible by landing hits on the enemy ADC or Support to weaken them early on.
Be cautious not to lose your focus on killing creeps to gather gold during this stage of the game, though, as that should be your priority. When the opportunity arises, however, and especially if her Headshot passive is active, it’s worth looking for a hit on your foes.
If you weaken either lane opponent enough at the start of a match you can even look for a kill with the help from your Support. You don’t want to play too aggressively and find yourself over-extending, but Caitlyn is able to apply significant pressure to low health targets with further poke or a well-timed engagement. Even if you just force one of your opponents to back to the fountain to heal, you can use that advantage to farm more freely and harass the solo player to prevent them from gathering gold.
If you have a successful early game then you can quickly get ahead of your opponents on items, which can make Caitlyn truly unstoppable as you transition to the latter stages of a match, and tear through whoever tries to stand in your way.