For most of Season 11, Bruisers, or Fighters, have been a bit unhinged. Renekton, Olaf, Lee Sin, and Camille have been tearing up the Pro Scene, while picks like Hecarim, Darius, Urgot, and Mordekaiser have been solid presences on the Solo Queue ladder. Today, we’re getting the chance to sit with Aaron "FakeGod" Lee, who’s here to help us through understanding what makes Bruisers so effective and what we can do to both master their playstyle and defeat them in the Solo Queue environment.
We’ll be taking a Top Laner’s perspective into account primarily as FakeGod helps to direct out tips and tricks today. But, just like in our Assassin Tips and Tricks with Yusui, don’t run off if you’re not a Top Lane main! There’s going to be plenty to learn and adapt to your game if you’re a Jungle or Mid Main that enjoys playing Bruisers!
The Bruiser/Fighter Class Archetype
Before we jump right into the fray of our tips, let’s talk about some game design first and foremost. Games that base themselves around class models typically stem from classic and established paradigms, and League of Legends is no exception to this philosophy. There are Warriors that wear heavy plate armor and wield swords and shields. Robe wearing Wizards and Witches that cast spells from afar. Sneaky Ninjas and Rogues that dart in and out of combat. And in some unique takes, there might be hybrids in between. Magical Thieves, Arcane Warriors, Mystical Archers, et cetera and et cetera.
I think Bruisers represent that hybrid idea in the works. They fit right between League’s other two primary classes, Tanks and Slayers. Tanks have a self-explanatory handle, in that, they’re the ones in the thick of fights soaking and smacking around their opponents at close range while also providing big disruptive crowd-control abilities. While they might not be the best damage dealers, they’re hard to take down and can set up huge plays for their team.
Slayers represent a nimbler idea of a combatant and incorporate concepts like the Assassins and Skirmishers who focus on damage over survivability. Slayers make up for defensive lackings in the form of mobility. They have situational defensive options, but these options are definitely not the focus of their kit and are more associated with their mobility or how they briefly disrupt their target’s tempo.
In the current season, Bruisers are a little OP. They bring a bit of everything to the table. They have a Tank’s tankiness and a damage dealer’s damage. So, they’re a bit too much right now.
Bruisers are separated by the subclasses, Divers and Juggernauts. Both of these subclasses want to get into the fight just like Tanks but they don't come into the fray with wet pool noodles like Tanks do. Instead their punches pack plenty of damage so their range of engagement and trading has to be respected at all times by other Champions. However, unlike members of the Slayer classes, they don’t have the same level of burst so their damage in comparison can be lacking on the front end of fights. (This is of course in an ideal world of design. As FakeGod alluded to, they’re a bit OP which means some Bruisers are defying this design convention.)
Divers are the more mobile units of Bruisers, and as their name implies, are experts at singling out a high-priority target and blitzing them down, forcing their victims to deal with their presence or die. Divers aren’t known for their durability, but they can still take their fair share of abuse. They itemize a lot of ‘pseudo-tanky’ stats like Lifesteal or Lifeline effects that let them stick in fights for longer. If left alone, Divers are massive threats that can easily take over a backline.
Conversely, Juggernauts are the slow moving titans of the battlefield. They approach their opponents slowly but surely, and the moment their enemies are within reach they can unleash a devastating amount of pressure in the form of sudden crowd-control or big damage. They excel at both dealing and taking damage, but in turn they have rougher issues with mobility and can’t effectively close the gap on their targets due to intentionally low attack and engage ranges.
What type of player is attracted to the Bruiser Class?
Overall, the Bruiser Class appeals to players that like to dominate their one-v-ones. It’s great for players that want to win their matchup hard and then take the game over in two unique ways that depend on your Champion. Some Champs might be focused on staying in lane for a longer time and just hard dominating anyone that tries to fight them, while others might be more teamfight oriented.
Finding which of those two styles of play that appeals to you is important. And it’s great to get this glimpse into the mindset of Bruiser players since, if you have any qualms about getting good at one-v-ones, then you can elect to try another role or even opt for another class. But, as always, if you’re looking to master the game of League itself, not just any class or role, picking something that you enjoy even from non-gameplay standpoints can be key to motivating you into improvement.
You might not be great at one-on-one stuff, but you really like Illaoi’s character design and lore, so you stick to it because that character ‘speaks’ to you. And this is a totally fine reason. Just know learning anything takes time and mastering a class, and role, that naturally attracts players that want to hardstomp each other might lead you to slowly grinding out until you’re proficient enough to stand on your own.
What do Bruisers bring to the game that other classes don’t? What are their weaknesses?
As FakeGod mentioned earlier, the Bruiser class brings a little bit of everything to the table. But despite their strengths, Bruisers aren’t Champions that will instantly net free wins. Flexibility often comes with the demand of effort. So, Bruisers have to work a little harder to get to their combo potential of tankiness and damage.
Additionally, Bruisers have some designed weaknesses to make up for this flexibility. Bruisers can be kited out or tied down with CC thanks to their one-note nature and low mobility options. Divers get the luxury of mobility to get in, but the trade off on mobility is typically long cooldowns, so once they’re in, they don’t typically get out. Juggernauts can only reach within an immediate range around them, with Flash being their only way to extend their engagement range (typically) so as long as you’re not within their specific zone of influence you can poke, CC, and avoid anything they might lay your way.
But, as FakeGod mentioned, these guys are OP for a reason. There’s been an abundance of mobility and survivability thrown into the game with the Season 11 item update. Items like Stridebreaker, Goredrinker, Divine Sunderer, and Sterak’s, have provided Bruisers and other classes ways to circumvent their design weaknesses which has made them extremely oppressive. Thankfully, we’ve transitioned from the point in the season where the likes of Darius and Garen have OP dashes to get them on top of their targets, but we’ve entered into a phase where these guys can live for longer due to the pseudo ‘tank stats’ effects I mentioned earlier coupled with effects like Conqueror and Grasp from their Keystone slots.
So once again, their mobility weaknesses are more pronounced but they’re making up for it in resiliency. So, all you that face off against these fighters keep in mind your ranges and what you need to trim their in-fight sustain. And for you would be Bruiser Masters, keep in mind how low mobility and fight DPS alter your positioning and ways into fights.
Speaking of which…
How to approach teamfights as a Bruiser
Some Bruisers prefer to work more like Tanks. They play at the front of fights and look to make engages off of missteps and timing with their team. Others like to come in from the side or from the flank and get right on top of a squishy target. And there are others that work much more like duelists and want to stay on their island and draw pressure. Understanding where your Champion is most impactful is key to approaching or avoiding teamfights.
Naturally, how you get into fights may alter from game to game. When we break down itemization options to consider later, you can combine this section with that one to get an inkling on how to approach. Focusing on approachment though, teamfight approach typically depends on how ahead or behind you are, how you’ve itemized, and what Champion you’re playing as FakeGod mentioned.
Divers typically like to come in on the flank or from the side of fights, maybe a beat behind when the fight itself breaks out so they can find their way into the mix while everyone's attention is elsewhere. Notable flanking Divers are Camille, Lee Sin, Diana, and Rek’sai. These Champions pack a bit of extra damage into the mix so they want their first rotation of abilities to get dumped on vulnerable targets. On the other side of the coin, more frontline-like divers are Jarvan, Skarner, and Hecarim. These Champions, while still possessing solid damage, have near instant and or unavoidable engage potential. So, they don’t mind standing stalwart and dancing around in front until the time to Flash-Ult (Skarner), combo in (Jarvan), or just ult in (Hecarim) presents itself.
As far as Juggernauts are concerned, you’ll be hard pressed to find a ton of flanking Champion in their lot. However, there is a notable exception in the roster - Shyvana. League’s favorite half-dragon exists in a weird state of limbo and design. Her kit is outdated and in need of a rework, but the intention behind her abilities is to operate like a Bruiser. She fits into the Juggernaut design space, but she’s not being played in that fashion in terms of item builds or in-game approach. Shyvana’s pathways focus on abusing her absurd AP ratios now, so she’s much more of a Diver or Assassin-like character. While she can still be played like a Juggernaut, it’s less effective in terms of success rates and popularity. I felt she just needed to be regarded as a special exception to this section since those of you that go out and do deeper research might find her listed amongst the roster and consider opting for her only to be met with poor results for your efforts.
Less exceptions due to design flaws and more exceptions due to their jack-of-all-trades like nature are Renekton and Aatrox. These two possess unique sets of tools that allow them to play both frontline and flanking positions. If you value flexibility, grab and master one of these two to really give yourself an edge in adaptability. Especially those of you that are aspiring Pro Players, these two are staple picks in High ELO and competitive League of Legends.
How to take over the game as a Bruiser
As mentioned, our eyes are primarily coming from Top Lane here, so our tips for this section are going to come from that angle. When you’ve established yourself in control of the lane in Top, you can do several things to really lockdown and take the game over.
If on a Juggernaut like Illaoi, Darius, or Urgot, you can hard sit on your island and dominate anyone that approaches. Juggernauts excel at 2v1-ing when they’re ahead, and it’s often these miscalculated attempts to contain them that are really the heart-breaking moments for enemies in-game. If you’re ahead, but not dominating and are on a Juggernaut with a smidge of ‘mobility’ like Garen, Trundle, or Volibear, you can start moving your vision forward into the enemy’s topside Jungle. This not only gets you clear information as to where the enemy Jungler is and how best to avoid their pressure, but it also allows you and your Jungler to coordinate dives and invades into the enemy side of the map. With you ahead, and likely moving through unwarded territory until your enemy falls prey to your strat once or twice, you can really get into that ‘domination’ mode and remove a second Champion out of the game’s influence while advancing your lead further.
Divers, thanks to their mobility, can be far more aggressive with their movements into the enemy Jungle for vision and duels with the enemy Jungler. Their mobility can be used offensively or defensively, if held, so walking in poking around is never a bad thing if you have an advantage over your lane opponent. Additionally, Divers are also really good at ganking Mid. Those mobility tools are excellent at getting in on the squishy Mages, Marksmen, and Assassins that have problems in dealing with targets directly on them. Divers that are great at ganking around the map are: Vi, Wukong, Pantheon, and Renekton.
Last but not least, regardless of your subclass, Top Laners specifically always have the threat of their TP ganks. Calling for wards behind enemy vision or behind lane opponents is a great way to set up a play that can net not only you potentially big gains, but really get your other teammates involved in mapwide plays. Teleport is taken for these reasons first and foremost, and is looked at secondarily as a ‘recovery’ tool from awkward starts. Learn to use this spell proactively and you can really begin to dominate your Solo-Queue games.
How to Play From Behind - Itemize Defensively
Playing from behind is about itemization. It’s not as simple as ‘build tanky’. Bruiser items are so good and so effective right now that sticking to the best build paths, even when damage focused is better. You can’t just ‘build tanky’ on a Champion like Camille because you fell behind early, because as the game goes on you’ll be useless. Stick to your build paths and focus on playing safer before building defensively first and foremost.
Second, you can still build defensively, just consider your components over the bigger picture items. For example, you might be piloting Camille, who sometimes opts for an early Tiamat or Sheen to keep up their lane pressure. If you’re losing trades, or worse have already died to your opponent, consider picking up an option like Phage instead which gives you Health, mobility, and promotes sustain. You’ll be getting ‘tank-like’ effects out of your items while still proceeding to your core of something like Divine Sunderer or Goredrinker.
You can’t escape a guide piece without finding Champion suggestions. For entry level suggestions, I suggest picking up the following Champions to learn the feel of Bruisers: Mordekaiser, Garen, and Jarvan. Each of these Champions have really simplistic approaches to the game and come equipped with tools to help them overcome bad decisions.
Garen has his passive which helps him sustain in lane and recover from trades. Mordekaiser can sustain off of his W and his ultimate helps him avoid 2v1 situations by allowing him to ult whoever he can more easily deal with. Jarvan is a quintessential Jungle pick this season and his ability to control Scuttle Crab, lockdown priority targets in his Cataclysm, and play offensively or defensively are invaluable. And you only need to hit one combo of abilities to top it off.
My suggestions are Renekton, Wukong, and Sett. Renekton can play both a frontline and backline, and with his Ultimate-Goredrinker-Steraks he can be both super tanky and one-shot you. Wukong’s ult is the big thing to him, the double knock-up is just super OP and can really turn fights in your favor. And playing his clone well is super important to escaping ganks. Sett is my last one since he’s still pretty simple and easy to learn, but his W timing and ult choices are big decisions to recognize.
There you have it folks! Bruisers have dominated Pro and Solo Queue play this season, and they don’t look to be slowing down anytime through the Worlds patches. Take the time to freshen up on the meta’s best picks and use the tips covered here to boost your gameplay!
Thanks to FakeGod for offering his insight into the Bruiser approach! If you want to follow more of the man himself you can find him at these social links: