Nasus Build Guide

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Nasus. Cuz he's a Space Anubis

written by Norin The Wary

Nasus Build

Table of Contents

  • Summary (Oh crap I randomed to Nasus. What do?)



    [item_icon=force of nature]


  • Why Should I Play Nasus?

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    Cuz he's a Space Anubis.

  • Pros/Cons

    - Good for solo top (1v1 or 1v2)
    - Easy farming and pushing
    - Damage scales infinitely with farm
    - Wrecks towers
    - Great single target burst every couple seconds
    - One of the hardest slows in the game

    - Relatively poor early game
    - Easily runs out of mana early game without buying mana regen
    - No hard cc
    - Low mobility makes it easy to be kited
    - No real escape abilities

  • Patches
    - Attack range increased to 125 from 110
    - Soul Eater lifesteal increased at earlier levels to 14/17/20% from 10/15/20%
    - Wither
    Cooldown reduced to 15/14/13/12/11 seconds from 15 seconds at all ranks
    Mana cost reduced to 80 from 100
    Wither will now reach its max slow even if its duration is reduced (ie: by tenacity)
    - Spirit Fire
    No longer has a 0.5 second delay before taking effect
    Now deals half of its damage initially and the other half over the duration -- initial 55/95/135/175/215
    (+0.6 ability power) Magic Damage and 11/19/27/35/43 (+0.12 ability power) Magic Damage each second for
    the next 5 seconds
    - Fixed a bug where Siphoning Strike sometimes gained extra lifesteal

    Solid buffs all around, but nothing that fundamentally changes how you play. You get a little more staying power from your passive early game (helps your jungle too, but you're still better off in lane), and Wither's ridiculous mana cost is a bit more manageable now. Wither's cooldown also drops with each rank now, giving even more incentive to max it after Siphoning Strike. The tenacity bug with Wither was fixed too, which took long enough, but it's fine now. Most noticeable are the Spirit Fire changes. With half of the damage upfront, it's a lot easier to last hit with if you have to, but more importantly it's easier to harass with because of the guaranteed damage. Unfortunately Wither is still too good to warrant maxing Spirit Fire unless you're getting wrecked in lane.

  • Abilities

    Soul Eater
    Solid passive, if a little uninspired. Helps you stay in lane however long you want. Note that this does not make lifesteal-stacking a good idea.

    Siphoning Strike
    This is what makes Nasus Nasus. Every time you kill something with it, its damage permanently increases. So basically, and I will repeat this to no end, NEVER STOP FARMING Q. The damage gets pretty ridiculous over time, and Nasus can't do much early game anyway, so you might as well just ignore everything around you and just last hit with this every time it's off cooldown for the first 10 (or 30) minutes of the game.

    Also note that this resets your autoattack timer. You can attack a minion, then instantly hit Q and attack it again if you have trouble killing things with it before you've farmed any damage on it. Also useful for ensuring minion kills under your tower or killing two minions in rapid succession.

    Unlike a lot of similar skills, you can proc this on towers, bonus damage and all, which is what makes Nasus so great at dropping towers after some farm. Protip: if your team is clearly about to kill a tower (as in it's under like 1/8th of its health), save this ability to make sure you get the last hit and pad your stats. Everyone gets the gold anyway, and you gotta make sure those stupid minions don't steal the last hit, right?

    Your only form of cc, it doesn't stun or snare or interrupt or anything fancy, but it's a great slow at least. It starts off pretty average, but it gets stronger over time until they practically can't move or attack. Useful for making sure runners don't get far and I suppose getting out of ganks in extreme circumstances. Mostly you want to use it on the ad carry to make them practically useless and really easy to focus. Bonus points if it's a melee dps who just used his only gap closer to get into the middle of your team.

    Fun fact: Since it doesn't deal damage, you can use it under your enemies' towers without drawing aggro. Useful for finishing off the tower while someone foolishly thinks they can stop you.

    Spirit Fire
    Spirit Fire is an interesting spell. A lot of people used to look at it and think "Hey, that's like Morgana's aoe ability. Well I know how I'm farming every minion." Those people are wrong. Every minion you kill with Spirit Fire is one that doesn't add damage to Siphoning Strike or give you health back from your passive. The mana cost also adds up very quickly if you're farming with it, especially if you don't leave it at rank 1. Therefore, 9 games out of 10 you're not going to use this ability to farm unless you need to clear out the 3 waves of minions that have piled up in the lane everyone's been neglecting.

    That said, it has plenty of uses. Mostly if you're in a 1v2 lane against 3-4 hard cc abilities and they won't push at all. In that case you'll probably die before you get in melee range for a Q, so you'll need to level Spirit Fire and farm with it. Not constantly though, as you don't want to push any farther than you have to. If you level it as quickly as possible, you should have no trouble securing last hits with the initial burst.

    Other notable uses include safely checking bushes and zoning your opponents. Given the choice, most people aren't going to needlessly stand in the armor-reducing damage-over-time aoe, so you have a little bit of zoning power if you need it. Also, it has pretty significant armor reduction even at rank 1, so just throw it down in the middle of a fight for some added damage from you and your teammates.

    Fury of the Sands
    Nasus's ult is actually pretty great. For starters, aoe percent-based magic damage over time. It also gives significant boosts to health and damage, so even without any ad items you can do respectable damage in a fight. Most importantly, it makes you look like a badass. Enemies will be terrified when you suddenly get huge and have a sandstorm swirling around you, and they'll generally scatter in all directions for your teammates to pick off. That or they stand around taking damage from your ult and making you stronger. It's pretty much win-win. Note that this does not make you invincible or something, you can't 1v5 just because your ult is up. That said, its best use is running into the middle of the enemy team and popping it on your way to the carry. Just make sure everyone's committed to the fight so you don't waste it.

    Don't overlook the instant health boost either. It's great for baiting people into towerdiving you at low health or getting out of ganks. Obviously don't use it then instantly run away, but if you're almost out of reach and need that extra health to survive, go for it. Also great for denying kills to global abilities like Requiem. Remember it's always better to put your ult on cooldown than give the enemy team a kill.

  • Summoner Spells

    My Recommendations:

    Ghost - Great for all scenarios. Extra mobility in teamfights, catching up to runners, escaping ganks, not being kited all over the map. Great with Nasus's high base movespeed.

    Teleport - Since you're ideally the solo top, you have to make sure you can get back to your tower asap after dying/going back to base. It's easy to lose a tower to a good pusher in the time it takes you to run down the lane, and we can't have that. Also good for getting to fights across the map (dragon fights early on, for instance) and for pushing unprotected lanes later on. 

    Other Viable Options:

    Exhaust - See Wither basically. Not exactly the same, but use it in the same way. I don't particularly like it because it's a little redundant, but take it if you like. Especially if you're playing draft and see 3+ physical dps on the other team, while your entire team has Flash/Ignite for the extra deeps.

    Cleanse - I'm not a fan personally, but it's not bad. I prefer it on carries who aren't likely to live through a stun because they can't afford the defenses and over 40% cc reduction that Nasus can through a tenacity item and masteries. Most of the time you feel you need this, you can just go with a Quicksilver Sash instead.

  • Runes

    My Preferred Set:
    Greater Mark of Desolation - Armor pen is always useful, and there aren't really any other good marks for Nasus.
    Greater Seal of Resilience - Flat armor is a good choice on melee laners, as it lets you shrug off minions and autoattack harassment.
    Greater Glyph of Shielding - Base magic resist doesn't scale as well as armor with level, and it's harder to itemize in large quantities too. I prefer scaling over flat for the endgame strength, since you aren't even guaranteed to be laning against a caster top like if you were mid. If you are, an early Mercury's Treads makes the difference negligible.
    Greater Quintessence of Swiftness - I like these largely for the flexibility in opening item choice. Nasus's base movespeed is high, so these scale well enough that you can skip boots against many opponents. They also scale well as the game goes on, helping you not get kited so hard.

    Other Viable Options:
    Greater Seal of Clarity - I used to think these were necessary for the mana regen, but now that I don't take Meditation, I just get a Philosopher's Stone and skip the runes.
    Greater Glyph of Focus - NEVER STOP FARMING Q even more often. You don't need these with my items and masteries.
    Greater Quintessence of Fortitude - Reasonable if you like the health boost early game to make sure you can't get burst down. Also one of the more generically good runes if you're cheap, but rarely the best option.
    Greater Quintessence of Desolation - I'm not a fan, but it's a decent option for a more offensive build.
    Greater Quintessence of Vampirism - I've never actually used these, but with some quick math it seems like these are way better for keeping your health up than Greater Quintessence of Vigor as long as you're not getting completely zoned out of all of your farm. They also scale better into late game than most runes, so I'll tentatively call these a decent option.

  • Masteries

    The defense tree is really good, so it should be obvious to put 21 puts there. After that, I feel that you can put the remaining 9 points to the most use in offense. The armor pen is really good, especially if you don't plan to itemize for it, and the early points in utility are pretty worthless for Nasus. The defense tree has enough good masteries that going over 21 wouldn't be the worst idea, but I don't think the slight amounts of damage reduction can compete with the armor pen, especially considering you should be buying enough armor/magic resist to at least halve the effects of damage reduction masteries.

    The reason I didn't put 3 points in [mastery_text=enlightenment] is because my build only needs 2 points to hit the 40% cap.

  • Skilling Order

    For difficult lanes, I used to recommend prioritizing Spirit Fire, but now that it deals flat damage up front, it is much easier to farm with at lower ranks than before. In this situation, I now suggest leveling it up to rank 2 or 3 before reverting to the usual R>Q>W>E order. You might have to mess around in practice games for a bit to get the timing down, but last hitting with the flat damage of a rank 3 Spirit Fire is much lighter on your mana pool and doesn't push the lane as hard as if you put more points into it.

    Also feel free to wait until you get to lane to take your first point. It'll probably be Siphoning Strike no matter what, but if your jungler gets ganked at blue or your team decides to invade the enemy jungle, Wither will be more useful.

  • Items

    Starting Items:
    to start the majority of the time. You should have enough health and resistances without items to survive most lanes, at least long enough to afford your Philosopher's Stone.
    x5 against a tough physical damage lane
    x3 against skillshot-heavy casters who can actively deny you early. You should be fast enough with just runes and masteries to dodge a lot of skillshots, so consider if you actually need boots or if you'll be fine with a Regrowth Pendant for a few levels.

    First Trip Back:
    Ideally at this point you have enough for Philosopher's Stone and Boots of Speed (815g).
    Depending on your lane opponent, you might want to skip boots at this point in favor of Cloth Armor or Null-Magic Mantle. It depends whether boots are actually going to help you avoid damage more than the extra armor/magic resist.

    Core Items:
    If you don't quite have enough gold, just buy a Kindlegem and don't upgrade it yet.

    I listed Sheen as part of the core build earlier in the guide, but I left it out here to stress that it's more important to get your cooldown reduction up to at least 30% first. Sheen is very important and you should get it every game, because it effectively adds about 115 damage to your Siphoning Strikes. I used to recommend rushing this, but it will end up giving the same amount of damage no matter how early you get it, whereas the faster you get your cooldown reduction capped, the more potential damage you can farm on Q. With diligent farming, you can easily afford this on top of your core in time for teamfights to start.

    Which Boots Do I Get?
    Mercury's Treads if the enemy team has multiple (2+) hard cc abilities you can mitigate with tenacity (stuns, snares, silences, blinds only).Ninja Tabi if not, and they have multiple champions who almost exclusively auto-attack.
    Remember that you can still get tenacity later with [item_text=eleisa's miracle] even if you go with Ninja Tabi, though you will lose the cooldown reduction from Shurelya's Reverie. This is rarely the best plan, but it's a viable strategy against an auto-attacking team with heavy slows for cc (i.e. Tryndamere, Trundle, Kog'Maw, etc).

    With your core complete (Sheen included), the rest of the build is highly situational. My general rule of thumb is that if you walk out of a teamfight with more than half of your health left, you can probably get away with building some more offense. Otherwise, buy defensive items according to whichever champion is the biggest threat to you.

  • Defensive Items

    Recommended Defensive Items:

    Frozen Heart - The cooldown reduction on this item is great, and pretty much worth buying over other armor items just for that. In my opinion the extra 5% by itself isn't worth the upgrade cost though, so if you don't need the armor or slow, just hang on to the  Glacial Shroud.

    [item=force of nature] - The best magic resist item for Nasus at this point, it also gives some useful movespeed and a ton of health regen.

    Aegis of the Legion - One of the best defensive items in the game, it is very cost-efficient on its own, and it gives a great aura for your team as well. Every team should have one of these, so check with your support and/or tank ahead of time and pick this up if they don't plan to.

    Secondary Defensive Items:

    Banshee's Veil - A decent magic resist item, but not my first choice on Nasus due to its repeated nerfs. Still useful for the spell shield against champions with single abilities that can win teamfights (i.e. Amumu and Galio)

    Randuin's Omen - Between the armor, health, and passive/active slow, this is a great item against physical damage. I would recommend it over Frozen Heart if not for the much lower cooldown reduction and the fact that you can't really afford to get a [item_text=heart of gold] early. Still a very good choice against ad-heavy teams after you finish Frozen Heart.

    Quicksilver Sash - A cheap item for what it offers, but I wouldn't get it unless you need the cleanse effect to get out of some aoe cc or Exhaust or something. That said, if the enemy team has at least 2 of Malzahar, Warwick, Vladimir, or Mordekaiser, feel free to take it over [item_text=force of nature]. Its active completely nullifies all of their ults, which can really turn fights in your favor.

    Spirit Visage - I don't like this item in general, especially for Nasus, but there are cases where it can be useful. If for whatever reason you decide not to get either Shurelya's Reverie or Glacial Shroud, this is a viable substitute for the early cooldown reduction. I can only really see this happening when literally every enemy champion builds AP, in which case it would be preferable to Glacial Shroud.

  • Offensive Items

    Recommended DPS Items:

    Trinity Force - Nasus makes good use of almost every stat and effect on this item, and considering how ridiculously cost-effective it is, this should absolutely be your first choice for more damage every game.

    Atma's Impaler - A great item for its cost, it gives you decent armor and crit chance, along with a lot of attack damage. Nasus has pretty high base health, especially with his ult up, and if you followed any of my recommendations above, you should have even more health to give you even more damage.

    Secondary DPS Items:

    The Bloodthirster - For straight attack damage, this item can't be beat once it's fully stacked. The lifesteal is always nice too, as you'll heal significantly off Siphoning Strike. As a bonus, Nasus farms so well that it's pretty easy to get stacks back up if you die. You need a lot of defense before you get this though, since you can't rely on the lifesteal to keep you alive in a fight.

    Last Whisper - You should only consider this as your last item. Its usefulness is limited on Nasus because you should have several sources of flat armor penetration/reduction by this point, but if the enemy team is stacking armor hard (and I mean even the squishy ones, obviously the tanks and tanky dps are going to have armor) this can be a reasonable item to get.

  • Note on AD vs AS

    Any good AD carry knows that attack speed is useless without damage to back it up. You only get the full effect of attack speed by standing in one place mashing your right mouse button on someone, and that's generally not the best idea. On Nasus in particular, stacking attack speed is pretty useless. For one, no one is going to stand there letting you pound on them, so you're going to have to chase (read: get kited). Second, unless you already have an item with some heavy ad on it, the majority of your damage is going to come from Siphoning Strike with Trinity Force procs anyway, and that doesn't scale at all with attack speed.

    So that's why I don't recommend items like Wit's End and [item_text=stark's fervor]. They're good items on a lot of tanky dps, but not so much on Nasus.

  • Build Examples

    General Build[builder=Nasus/6aa189d5a017b5959b1379827aeadc23]
    Against Heavy AD[builder=Nasus/37bc8afb9b0c12c2b5eba675c1d1831e]
    Against Heavy AP[builder=Nasus/a2dfd270acd268811991dc080ffdfe73]
    Note that the last build doesn't include a Frozen Heart. I would get a Spirit Visage early to help boost your farm and lane sustain, but it isn't a good enough item to warrant keeping in a final build. Make sure you keep an Elixir of Brilliance up at all times to make up for the lost cooldown reduction once you sell it.

  • General Tips


  • Early Game

    1v1 Top: For the most part, just don't die and NEVER STOP FARMING Q. Nasus isn't strong enough early on to duel with most common tops, and he scales into late game better than most of them too, so it's to your benefit to just farm and not pick fights. Don't push too hard though, since they have a jungler and you don't have a good escape ability to get out of a 2v1 gank. Be sure to keep wards up in the river if you find yourself pushing too hard by accident. Some opponents are going to push relentlessly in this scenario to take your tower down as fast as possible and make you lose farm to tower hits. Keep the minions off your tower as best you can, and point out to your jungler that your lane is way overextended and easy to gank. In the ideal situation 

    1v2 Top: So the enemy team doesn't have a jungler. The lower farm and experience will hurt them late game, which is good since you should be banking on late game anyway as Nasus. All you need to do is stay alive and farm as much as you can. The important thing is to be aware of what your opponents can do. If they have a couple of stuns between them, staying alive and farming might mean leveling Spirit Fire one or two extra times to last hit out of their range. Note that Spirit Fire doesn't do that much at rank 1 though, so don't spam it early on or you're just wasting mana. You should also realize that using it too much is going to push the lane and put you in a bad position if you're not careful. If they don't have particularly good early games, it's probably safe to duck in and out of melee range to Siphoning Strike for last hits. Your passive lets you eat some harassment here, but stay out of their range whenever possible.

    2v2 shouldn't really happen anymore since Nasus can jungle decently well, and I hope if you've gotten this far you're aware that you shouldn't be mid. I guess you could go bot with a support if your team is great like that, in which case just farm and ignore everything as usual.

  • Late Game

    You should still be farming Q every chance you get, but at this point it's more likely to be against jungle monsters since it's more dangerous to push lanes out too far. On the other hand, you should be able to take down towers by yourself very quickly at this point, so if you can see everyone on the other team distracted on the other side of the map, push a lane quickly and take down a tower or two.

    In teamfights, you need to make a judgment call whether it would be more useful for you to take out the enemy carry or protect your own. Wither makes Nasus really good at stopping ad champions who dive onto carries and stick to them until they die (Skarner, Udyr, Xin Xhao, etc), but you don't have any hard cc, so you can't do much to stop burst assassins like LeBlanc and Talon. Regardless, Wither your target, Spirit Fire as many people as possible, use Fury of the Sands, and start mashing Siphoning Strike whenever it comes off cooldown. Use Shurelya's Reverie as necessary too. It's most useful for helping your team initiate, chasing when Wither isn't up, and helping your carry kite or get into a better position after they get dived.

  • Jungle Nasus



    - Better Q farm than in the duo lane you would get if everybody else refuses to jungle

    - Q farm is worse than in most solo lanes
    - No hard cc for ganks
    - Not very fast

  • Jungle Nasus Path

    To start: ,

    Start at golem (hopefully with a leash), and use your health potion as soon as you get hit. Use Q right after your first hit, then save it for the last hit. Try to time smite not to kill golem, but to get it just low enough to kill with Q, ideally during your attack animation for the Q hit.

    You'll get somewhat low against golem, but it should be easy after that. Try to figure out how to space your Siphoning Strike uses to get the most farm on it, but you don't have to get every kill with it. Nasus isn't a fast enough jungler that you can afford to repeatedly stand around for 6 seconds waiting for your cooldown. It's fine to wait a few seconds now and then, but sometimes you have to just suck it up and auto-attack something to death (you should be able to Q farm every monster except one wraith with minimal downtime if you do it right). The trick is that the minion health totals and your damage and farm change with every pass, so there's no steadfast rule to go by. In general I try to kill one of the smaller monsters first though, so Q comes off cooldown as you auto-attack the bigger one.

    In general, your build should be roughly the same as usual, but you can get Sheen earlier than usual. The extra damage is useful for speeding up your jungle clears, and the cooldown reduction I usually stack early game only goes so far with the limited quantities of jungle monsters and the substantial downtime between camps.

  • Acknowledgements

    Riac - For teaching me how to play Nasus and being the self-proclaimed greatest of all time at everything ever

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