I have played Tahm Kench top for about 300 games this season, and an additional bunch of games every season back to season 7, mainly in diamond or master tier. I wanted to share my gathered knowledge about this champion.
This guide consists of the following parts:
Strengths and weaknesses
Why is nobody playing Tahm Kench top?
I will not go much into detail on how Tahm Kench works as a champion, as there are 100+ support Tahm guides already explaining that. If you want to read about his kit in detail, visit https://leagueoflegends.fandom.com/wiki/Tahm_Kench
This guide will be about Tahm as a toplaner only.
P1. Strengths and weaknesses
Most dominant laner in the game
Strongest level 1 in the game
Highest damage out of all tanks with a pure tank build.
Among the best CC in the game
Zero sustain (since E regen is technically just delayed damage reduction)
All CC and damage against champions is single target
Reasons why Tahm is the best level 1 champion:
47 base armor
28 bonus damage from passive
2 second stun on a 5 second cooldown, which means opponent can be stunned for up to 40% of the fight.
P2. Why is nobody playing Tahm Kench top?
I think the biggest reason is a misconception that the period of patches that hard nerfed Tahm support also hard nerfed his toplane, mainly by looking at the huge damage nerf he recieved on his W. However, if we take a closer look and compare Tahm prior to the first batch of nerfs to Tahm today, we can see that he also got a lot of buffs in those patches which mainly matter to his toplane game. The patches with the big Tahm changes were 9.9, 9.12 and 9.14 + hotfix. If we compare pre 9.9 Tahm to the Tahm we have today (and ignore the support role only based changes), this is what have changed:
HP 540 > 600
This is not only a big increase, but it’s an increase to Tahm favourite stat
Bonus damage from HP 1.5%/3%/4.5% (stacking) > 4%
Bonus damage no longer procs on abilities
So his bonus damage used to ramp up, then go down again after every ability you hit just to ramp up again. This is not the case anymore. This is a big buff to short trades, like single grasp hits early game, but also a small damage buff even in longer fights.
slow 1.5s > 3s
stun 1.5s > 2s
range 800 > 900
consumes passive stacks at 3, no longer gives a stack
Ok so range increasing by 100 and slow duration DOUBLING turned Tahm from one of the easiest kitable champions in the game to a ranged champions nightmare, as hitting just one Q now usually means imminent death to anyone. A 70% slow with 3 second duration and 5 second cooldown should qualify this as the best slow in the game next to wither and time warp.
Stun duration going from 1.5s to 2s is also huge, as stuns are among the most powerful types of cc, and very few stuns in the game lasts for more than 1.5s. Reminder once again, this is on a FIVE second cooldown.
mana cost 60 > 50
CD 14-8s > 10s
Damage 20-32% max HP > 60-240 + 11% max HP
0.25s stun and nearsight removed
This is the biggest nerf no doubt, about one third of the damage got removed, even more vs tanks, as well as a few other useful effects.
damage to grey health 70 / 75 / 80 / 85 / 90% > 45 / 50 / 55 / 60 / 65%
HP restore 25 / 30 / 35 / 40 / 45% > 30-100 (on any rank)
shield duration 3s > 2s
So this is a nerf to his shield, but also a pretty big buff to his regeneration as it now scales with level instead of rank, and this ability was always maxed last. From a toplane only perspective, this should count as a slight buff since you use the regen part of E way more often than the shield.
Range 4500 / 5500 / 6500 > 2500 / 5500 / 8500
Flanking and using R to return to lane faster pre 11 took a big hit, lategame backdoor potential got buffed though. Still a small nerf in total.
Base stats buffed
Q massively buffed
W massively nerfed
E slightly buffed
R slightly nerfed
Grasp. While Tahm has a few viable choices here (PtA, Hail), this is the most complete choice for early, mid and late game. It’s a crucial part of Tahm’s level 1-2 cheese, while also being a good scaling rune due to all the permanent HP you gain.
Shield Bash. The bonus damage recieved from shield bash scales with both bonus HP and shield size and can provide several hundreds of bonus damage in a single auto later in the game. Can be used multiple times during a fight thanks to Tahm’s short E cooldown. Of course demolish is just as good, but that rune needs no further explaination.
Second Wind. This is very helpful to remain healthy enough in lane to capitalize on every chance you get to engage on your lane opponent, also scales well with Tahm’s massive health pool.
Overgrowth. I think this one is obvious, HP HP HP.
Cheap shot. Has almost the same cooldown as your stun, you will proc this a lot in fights.
Ravenous hunter. This is better than you may think at first. It works with Tahm’s passive, meaning you will heal from every auto attack you do, as well as your Q, W and sunfire.
Tahm builds pretty much the same six items every game, however the build order varies a lot.
It is completely focused around HP, as his main damage source, his passive, is entirely based on the size of his health pool, while making him extremely tanky at the same time.
The builds looks as following:
Sunfire/Berserkers > Titanic/Mallet/Abyssal/Warmogs
The only exception to this build would be against full AD teams, where you swap abyssal for a deadmans or thornmail.
You can finish sunfire and berserkers in the order you want. After those two items, you will need to look at the game situation to decide the next item.
If you are laning against a champion who you beat 1v1 but that can also escape you easily, Mallet is the way to go. Example of champs are Karma, Gangplank and other good kiters with mobility + short CD slows. ALso great if you need to 1v1 something like a Vayne
If you are laning against an AP champ and the enemy team has pleanty of AP damage, you may want to go for the abyssal mask. Example of champs are Vladimir, Sylas.
If you are laning against a specifically strong champ, and will have to 1v1 the enemy top for the majority of the game, Titanic is the way to go. Example of champs are Fiora, Yorick. This is also a very good item against champions you need to take down asap in teamfights(like Katarina, Yi, Kassadin) as it’s activate will grant you an extra passive stack on your target, letting you unleash your cc faster.
Warmogs is usually never built right after sunfire+berserkers, but has a guaranteed spot in Tahm’s full build.
Why berserkers greaves and not tank boots!?!?
Buying tank boots is the single biggest noob trap new Tahm top players fall into. There are many reasons to not do it.
Tahm does use attack speed extremely well, concidering his massive auto attack damage (from around 150 early game to as high as 450 with a full build including titanic late game). Not only does it increase your damage by a lot, it also reduces the time between your stun and your swallow, and the swallow and your second stun as you will stack your passive faster, giving your opponent way less time to fight back or escape.
The only stat that is better on Tahm than attack speed is of course HP, and the only way to build attack speed without sacrificing any HP is to get the attack speed from the boots, as there are no HP boots in the game.
There are almost no champions that possess the slightest threat against Tahm in the toplane, therefore this will be a short section. I will list the few ones that you need to be slightly more careful against.
Illaoi. You cannot fight Illaoi if she has hit her E on you and has her ult up.
Jax. Outscales Tahm after a few items and also has a very good kit to stay safe in lane vs Tahm. I suggest using your ban on Jax.
Darius and Kled with ignite. If you misplay against these during the earliest levels, you might die to them.
Tahm is a pure split pusher, played like a mix of Jax and Shen. Draw attention from multiple opponents to open up objectives for your team to take, and if the situation allows, join them with your ult or teleport. If you are to join a teamfight, you can either try to burst down a squishy in their backline if you can hit them with a Q, or focus on locking down an enemy diver with CC to protect your own backline.
For those who wonder how to combo Tahm’s abilties, there are many ways, but these two are the most common:
In a straight up 1v1 fight against a melee champ or immobile ranged champ, you want to aa-aa-aa-Q-aa-aa-aa-W-aa-aa-aa-Q
Against a kiting champ or a champ who tries to flee from you, you want to Q-aa-aa-aa-W-Q-aa-aa-aa…Q