A Little off the Top | Proper Top Laning in Pokémon UNITE
6 months ago
A lot of players are asking: How do I play my lane? What does it mean to play the role I'm playing?
Fortunately for those players who are interested in some Top lane action, I can help you answer those questions and a few others.
The biggest question out of those is "what lane do I go to with X Pokémon?" I could give the easy answer and say: AnY pOkÉmOn CaN gO aNyWhErE. But we all know that’s not why you're reading this, we know you want actual strategy and not facerolling your controller till you’re way down the rankings. When choosing your Pokémon you should also be paying attention to what your teammates are picking - because if you're not playing Mid lane (Jungle) then you're going to be playing with a partner.
One of the keys to a successful game is understanding which players in a lane are going to be playing which role in the lane. One is the Carry, who's going to be getting the exp funneled into them for the majority of the laning phase. The other is the Support - and I say support loosely because there are a few offensive Pokémon with enough damage and Crowd Control to be useful while not having the XP funneled into them. A few examples of good combinations from pre release gameplay are: Pikachu & Alolan-Ninetales, Cinderace & Snorlax, Venusaur & Slowbro (although as of writing this Venusaur has been nerfed to the bench), Alolan-Ninetales & Snorlax, Pikachu & Blastoise (currently unavailable), and Gardevoir (Currently unavailable and also my personal favourite) & Alolan-Ninetales.
Those are just a few of the ones that you would see commonly in higher level play in the Canadian beta, NOT the Japanese stress test, and that's not to say that those are all the best combos. Please don't stress about me not mentioning the cheesy Crustle & Mime type combos here. Their whole reason for being picked is for having fun and there's another article to be written for that. I didn't mention any all-rounders because they generally shouldn’t be in Top lane. Bottom lane has more XP and since all-rounders are all about scaling they NEED Bot lane’s XP to stay relevant. You can play a support Top sure, but trust me your all rounder wants you eldegoss players Bottom way more.
Which leads me into the next question: Why am I going Top lane, and what does a Top laner do differently than a Bottom laner or Mid/Jungler? "To score points and win obviously" is what you'll read in one of those more basic "how to play unite" videos and articles. I agree with that, and I'm sure you do too, but we're here to go in depth on that.
Your job as a Top lane duo is to pressure the map by using the 2 tools at your disposal: Rotom and Roaming. Rotom is a huge asset to be taken when it spawns at 7:00 (as in 7 minutes left). The reason that relates to pressure isn't just points. It's that their jungle and/or one of their Bottom laners is going to need to rotate towards Top lane. Which results in your Bottom lane Carry potentially getting ahead of theirs - and a Garchomp with a lead goes where it pleases and does what it wants. Which you as a Top laner played a part in, but good luck getting credit for it from daddy Chomp. Out of the Top lane duos I mentioned earlier it's the more damage oriented pairs that have an easier time - it's not hard for a carry + tank duo to secure Rotom, just easier for the raw damage. Killing Rotom faster means it respawns sooner, giving you more chances to finish it off before the Zapdos spawn time at 2:00.
However the edge goes to the Cinderace and Snorlax type duos when it comes to pressure through roaming. A tanky Pokémon like Snorlax, Slowbro, or Wigglytuff has the hp pool to allow it to play alone and not die. That's not to say Charge in 1v2 and you're getting the kills; a well played talk understands when to try for last hits or when to sit on their goal and attack the opponent as they try to score. A well played Pikachu or Alolan-Ninetales can do the same, but good luck surviving even in your Speed Flux Zone while their jungler and Top duo is diving you at the same time. Tanks have a much higher chance of surviving until help arrives or they push them off themselves. Because of the staying power of tanks your Top lane Carry has the freedom to roam (provided it's the right time). A surprise Greninja or Cinderace in Bottom lane is an easy way to secure some more XP and points for yourself, with the bonus of setting the opposing Bottom lane behind - even if it results in your Lucario starting to complain about kill stealing or something along those lines.
All that being said, that's just the mid to end game part of the laning phase and answering part of "how do I play my lane?" The beginning of laning phase (from 0:00 until about 2:00-2:30) is just as important, if you don't play it correctly you're not going to be able to make moves and exert pressure. The first thing I want to point out is the biggest mistake any laner can make: last hitting the Mid lane (jungle) lillipup spawn. DO NOT do this, it takes away from your junglers xp delaying their power spike. Which is the second most important thing you need to understand as a Top laner and a player in general: Power spikes. A power spike is a term used in mobas in general and is pretty self explanatory: when a player obtains a significant amount of power (damage or cc). In Unite your power spikes come from evolving and leveling up your abilities. For most Pokémon their first power spike comes at lv4, others at lv5. For example Alolan-ninetales upgrades powder Snow into Dazzling Gleam (the better option for a "support" Ninetales) after that you can allow the Carry to start getting all the last hits. When it comes to the most optimized way of farming the beginning Aipoms in your Speed Flux Zones is to allow the Carry to last hit them, but when you come to 2 Aipoms standing next to each other the Support should start hitting one of them so it starts waking up it's path. When it comes to the Aipoms past your last goal and the Corpish in lane this is your first opportunity to start outplaying your opponent.
I'll give you some "secret" Lunchbox tech: as an Alolan-Ninetales player I would always walk past the Corpish and over to the bush and try to last hit their Aipom. This funneled a full Aipom and a half into my carry while I gained xp off the opponents and after a corphish and half an Aipom I'd hit lvl 4. If done successfully you power spike and enable your carry to get more farm and potentially kills leading to an early advantage.
By now you're all probably asking “how does a Top laner do Zapdos and late game?” This time I'm gonna take my "easy" answer out and say that's not a laning phase thing to discuss in-depth now, again there are going to be more articles that go in depth on those in the future - stay tuned for them if you enjoyed this one.