Nasus Build Guide

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Nasus: Q some more; they'll QQ some more

written by Gentleman Gustaf

Nasus Build

Table of Contents

  • Abilities

    Soul Eater
    This passive should keep you in lane forever. Late game when your Q is farmed, it will give you ridiculous sustain.

    Siphoning Strike
    This ability is Nasus. Without it, he would be a weak off-tank with limited gap closing, split AP and AD scaling, and no natural steroids outside of his ult. With it, he's still all of those things, but without having to worry about building any AP or AD for scaling, he can build pure Tank/mobility and still have a really strong presence.

    Nasus' 'gap closer' is also a very solid AS debuff. If you get this on the AD carry in a team fight, even if you can't chase them down, you've taken away their ability to deal damage. The only AD carry who can deal considerable damage while this is on them is Ezreal.

    Spirit Fire
    A nice debuff that happens to do damage.

    Fury of the Sands
    This ult is your inherent tankiness. That's why you have to build mostly tank.

  • Introduction

    What would you say about a champion that had a thousand damage in burst from one spell late game? The only champions with single spell burst this high are Veigar (who can get upwards of 1220 with 600 AP, depending on his target), and Mal'zahar (who can get 1330 if you let him get his whole ult off without somebody slapping some crowd control on his floating ass). But both of these champions can only do this every minute or so. What would you say if I told you the cooldown on this spell was 4 seconds? If we compare this dps to Annie's (assuming she gets both her Q and half of her W, as it has an 8 second cooldown), Annie comes up about equal with 1010 damage.

    A single target spell that has more dps than both spells of a well farmed Annie, and is on a 4-second cooldown. And what would you say if I told you could get this damage from one spell of this champion with Trinity Force and a pure tank build? Of course, this champion is Nasus.

    Nasus is a very solid niche champion. Unlike many top champions who can fill a lot of roles, are hard to counter, but don't really have the potential to carry as hard as bot or mid lane champions, a properly farmed Nasus is a terrifying force. On the other hand, a well countered nasus is useless. As such, he is not a champion you could play every game and do well. He is very good against any auto attacking top laner, as his W will let you trade highly in your advantage. He also excels against any laner with very little sustain on account of his passive lifesteal. Moreover, he is a decent 1v2 laner due to his passive. However, any champion who can zone him early, and stop him from getting his early Q stacks off, it can stop him from snowballing as well. Early ganks are strong against Nasus so long as you can circumvent his W. However, if Nasus gets to do what he wants (farm top, farm top, and farm top), it's is very hard to stop him. Essentially, a Nasus pick is meant to punish somebody who picks an incredibly passive, but safe top laner by being slightly less safe top, but slightly more devastating late game. What is special about is that he does not need to build any offense (although Trinity Force is such a perfect item that you should get it anyway) to be face-stompingly good. If you have done a good job farming your Q, it should be all the damage you could need.

    Some people will take Nasus' Q as a sign to build him for AD/lifesteal, getting The Bloodthirster and other AD items, with maybe 1 or 2 tank items. This is one variety of Nasus: against the right team (no CC), he will seem entirely invincible as his life steal and his huge Q damage will keep him full at all times and let him 1v1 seemingly any champions. But he can't deal with proper kiting or focus, as he will end up quite squishy. The Nasus I build is more like the Jason Vorhees of the LoL universe: he'll keep coming at you no matter what, and if you turn around to help your friends, you'll find yourself dead.

  • Recognition where Recognition is due

    To start, I should point out that my build is very standard. Hyfe describes it best, so I will leave a lot of the hard work to what he has already done in creating one of the best guides of leaguecraft. However, there are two major ways in which my play differs from his.

    First, my core differs from his (described below). Instead of emphasizing early gold items, I emphasize early CDR (to get Q farmed up even faster). I find that by doing this, you can get your Q on every minion of every wave you're in lane for. If you get your farm to 350 or so, this leads to a Q that does nearly 1300 damage with Trinity Force.

    I also find that this build allows you to not only farm your lane, but also push some lane opponents out entirely (especially AD champs).

    Second, my 6th item choice differs greatly from his. He recommends either one last tank item, or one AD item. I agree that most games, you will want one last tank item, and I also approve of The Bloodthirster. But in those games where you don't need anymore tankiness or sustain (and Nasus rarely needs more sustain), I find that the best last game damage items you can get are Rabadon's Deathcap or Hextech Gunblade.

    In defense of Rabadon's Deathcap, while AD will boost your Q slightly, the increase it adds is really minimal, as your Attack Speed is below 1 and your Q scales most off of its stacks, not your AD. On the other hand, Rabadon's Deathcap will boost your spirit fire by 240 damage (quite considerable on an AoE ability), will deal an additional 50 dps (750 damage over the whole duration) to your ultimate per nearby opponent (and more if they're healthy), and if 5 people are around you, give you 20 AD to boot (from your ult).

    Hextech Gunblade has a good deal of the non scaling benefits of The Bloodthirster, some AP, and most importantly, a backup slow.

  • Masteries + Runes

    Woah, guys! Masteries have changed for the better with the new masteries. Before, you had to choose between 21 in Defense (for tankiness) and 21 in utility (for cdr and Move Speed). Now, however, going 21 in defense gets you all three! The only choices you have after that are where your last 9 points are going

    If you want Armor Pen on your Q: 9/21/0

    If you want more Move Speed: 1/21/8

    If you want more Mana Regen: 1/21/7

    (the last point can go wherever: I like siege commander)

    If you just want more tankiness: 1/29/0

    I personally like going 9/21/0, but they are all strong.

    Greater Mark of Desolation – Almost all of your real damage will come from your Q. You have some Armor reduction from your E, but Armor Pen will help you a lot.

    Greater Seal of Resilience/ Greater Seal of Evasion – If you have dodge, you may as well use it instead because of the dividends it will pay on Nimbleness

    Greater Glyph of Warding or Greater Glyph of Shielding – Whichever floats your boat. Since Nasus is such a mid-late game champion, I go for the scaling.

    Greater Quintessence of Fortitude or Greater Quintessence of Swiftness – To not die early or to chase late.

  • Summoner Abilities

    Ghost - Because you don't need precise movement, you need a long-term ability to chase. This seems repetitive with Shurelya's Reverie and your really high MS from [item_text=Force of Nature] and Trinity Force, but think of it as system redundancy.

    Teleport - Because you're top. I find that teleport lets you do what you want (farm top) while still being able to help in early fights (like at dragon)

    Exhaust - nice, but you have a nearly permanent one with max CDR. If you don't need TP, you can take exhaust.

    Flash is good, but you want extended, not burst mobility so you can avoid kiting. Flashing to get your Wither combo can be good, but sometimes it backfires and you get stunned. Ghost will still be up for 3 or 4 seconds after the stun ends. Take Flash only if they have champions with low cooldown escapes. To be fair, I probably take Flash in half of my games anyway, because i'm more used to using it than Ghost.

  • Skilling Order

    Your ult is awesome. It makes you tankier.

    Your Q is your damage, and its cooldown decreases with levels (letting you charge it faster)

    Your W lets you 1v1 AD champions once you hit level 6 or so.

    Your E is ok, but really doesn't give you much until you want to be teamfighting, and costs too much mana to use outside of ganks or 1v1 fights. If they're pushing, you can always just Q under the tower, and if they're not, you don't want to be. And if they're zoning you, E farming from a distance isn't going to help you get back into the game.

  • Items

    Your core is the following:

    Shurelya's Reverie

    Glacial Shroud


    Mercury's Treads

    Negatron Cloak (should you be laning against a magic champion)

    I normally go -> -> -> -> -> ->

    This will give you 36% CDR, good sustain, and the ability to Q minions from near full health, as well as rather obscene harass that costs you no mana. If your jungler comes to gank with any CC, you can force almost anybody out of lane.

    You want the CDR first, the boots for safety, and then sheen for game strength.

    From there, you should get resistances as needed, and upgrade Sheen to Trinity Force and get [item_text=Force of Nature] to help with your chasing ability. Upgrade your Glacial Shroud to Frozen Heart when you need, and leave your last item slot open for whatever you need.

    The basic idea is to itemize Nasus around being extremely tanky with max Q spamming. Since Q scales mostly off of how much you have used it and how much you can use it, CDR is the best purchase, with AD seeming like a waste alongside it. After that, you just want to get as many Qs off as possible, and are melee, so you should build tanky. However, no items give the CDR, tankiness, and Move Speed that these items do, so you should rarely deviate from the build unless something on the other team prompts it (no physical damage, for example).

    1/18/12: When I first made this guide, I was under the impression (which I now understand to have been mistaken) that Nasus was a weak laner who just had to survive until the late game. Moreover, I saw him as a counter-pick to people who can't really push you out of lane. However, I new see that he can still lane against the people I once considered to be 'counters'. To do so, start with Cloth Armor and health potions, and use the sustain from the potions and your lifesteal to stay in lane until you can get Philosopher's Stone and maybe Glacial Shroud or Boots of Speed and Chain Vest

  • Build Example

    Almost every game, I go with this build:


    The last slot is open because It really depends on the team, but I often go with or or , depending on what I need: more defenses, more sustainability, or more AoE damage.

    After the core, described above, you should build your , your [item_icon=Force of Nature], your or your , depending on what you need. If you want to get a here, you should get it before your sheen if your team can stand to extend the laning phase until then. After that, shore up your defenses as need be and finish your Trinity Force whenever you feel tanky enough. As I do not opt for , after my core, I typically get:

    -> [item_icon=Force of Nature] -> -> -> 6th item.
    [item_icon=Force of Nature] -> -> -> -> 6th item.

    My reasoning for this order is as follows. After my core but before the team fight phase, I find that most of my engagements are 1v1 or 2v1, and as such, Phage's proc pays great dividend's. If I'm getting visited by the enemy jungler a lot, I'll opt for the early [item_text=Force of Nature], just for additional sustain and Move Speed. Finally, I don't really need until after team fights have started (if they start earlier, I move it up in priority). Trinity Force only adds 100 damage to your Q, so I find it's not a crucial addition unless you're really having trouble with kiting. Finally, getting tanky is more important. The only reason I get Trinity Force is if I'm  dominating top lane and want to turn that into more kills.

    This build is optimal, in my opinion, for four reasons. First, Shurelya's Reverie acts as a second ghost, preventing you from being kited easily. Second, two of your items (Trinity Force and [item_text=Force of Nature]) give you passive Move Speed buffs. This is crucial to letting you fight when Shurelya's Reverie and Ghost are not available. Third, it gives you burst damage without sacrificing much (Trinity Force). Moreover, that burst damage synergizes very well with Nasus, whose main damage is from a spell that is essentially an on-hit effect with a 2.4 second cooldown. If that doesn't scream Trinity Force, I don't know what does. Finally, it gives you max (if you go 0/9/21) and near-max (if you go 0/21/9) CDR. Max CDR lets you do two important things. One, it lets you Q all 6 minions in a wave. This will lead to you having immense damage without any damage items. Two, it puts your slow on a 6.6 second cooldown (only 1.6 seconds longer than its duration). This prevents any champion from escaping you. With this build, you can catch champions as hard to track down as Kennen. The only champions who can regularly escape the constant slow are Nidalee and Gragas (and anybody else with a low cooldown dash).

    As such, it is hard to do this build without any of the main four items: Shurelya's Reverie, [item_text=Force of Nature], Frozen Heart, and Trinity Force. Without Shurelya's Reverie, you will only want to engage with Ghost up. Against teams with enough CC that you would want Banshee's Veil or Quicksilver Sash over [item_text=Force of Nature], you probably shouldn't do this build because either you will go with [item_text=Force of Nature] and get CC'd and kited, or you will get Banshee's Veil or Quicksilver Sash and be unable to chase as well (leading to kiting). Against teams with no auto attackers (AD casters instead), you don't really benefit much from Frozen Heart (limiting your CDR options). Without Trinity Force, your Q loses about 200 damage, and you lose significant Move Speed, as well as an on-hit slow.

    However, while I have yet to figure out the exact build, but I feel that there should be some way to make a Lich Bane build work on Nasus. Lich Bane would make your Q scale off of AP, giving you even more obscene burst. Moreover, AP benefits all of your other abilities. The main problem I have is figuring out what items are safe to cut. The closest way I can see making this work would be the following:

    & → [item_icon=Force of Nature] →

    Rabadon's Deathcap/Lich Bane give you enough AP that your Lich Bane is actually improved, damage-wise, over Trinity Force, while really helping your AoE damage. However, I worry about this build because it drops your MS because you upgrade Sheen late (and Lich Bane gives less speed than Trinity Force anyway), and you also lose the slow from Phage. The only way I have managed to make this build viable is to assume a team that can initiate for you (jungle amumu, AD Carry Ashe, etc...), thus eliminating the need for extra Move Speed. When you don't have to worry about kiting, you can build for AP and survivability alone, as follows: 


    Masteries – 0/21/9, as in the masteries section

    [item_icon=Morello's Evil Tome].

    This build, however, is still a work in progress, and is worse than the standard build in all circumstances except those where your team has very good initiations. You may also want to take Exhaust instead of Teleport.

    Other notable items that may work include:

    - More slows

    Items I find to be unsuitable include:

    - the active is counter-intuitive on Nasus and the armor is underwhelming compared with frozen Heart.

    - You don't really have the AP to make it worthwhile, and your targets are the squishies, anyway.

    Items I don't really know about:

    - there is something interesting about the synergy between AP and AS on Nasus, because AP increases his AD when his ult is active. But this would force you to drop Frozen Heart for (in my opinion) Randuin's Omen. The active on Randuin's Omen SEEMS like it would be really strong on Nasus, and while it is not terrible, you do have to consider that if you're in range to use it, you're already in range of your almost permanent wither. I have considered changing the build above to replace [item_text=Morello's Evil Tome] with Nashor's Tooth and Frozen Heart with Randuin's Omen, but it has never seemed quite intuitive to me (especially as you can't build the CDR from Randuin's Omen in parts, although you can probably do without the last 5% until later). The main problem that I have with this build is that rushing Nashor's on Nasus will not give you much, and you want your CDR early. As such, I have ruled it out, but feel free to try it.

    - I can't see why you wouldn't want Mercury's Treads, but if the team is very low on CC (even including slows), then you could go with these and replace [item_text=Morello's Evil Tome] or even Shurelya's Reverie in the original build.

    With this in mind, you could also go with

    You would build much the same as normal, except you would rush

  • Farming

    Laning as Nasus is pretty easy. Your lifesteal should keep you in lane forever. Early on, you'll only be able to Q every other minion, but once you get your core items (, , ), there's no excuse for not getting basically every minion in every wave. This means that after about the 12 minute mark, you should get 100-120 stacks on your Q every 10 minutes. If your team can drag the laning phase until the 30 minute mark, you'll have 200 stacks or more, giving you a Q of around 800 damage. Trinity Force should bring this up to about 1000, and late game, it can only grow (although you won't get as many stacks after the laning phase ends).

  • Working in the team

    Your job in a team fight is quite simple

    External Image

    1) Check for nearby carries (AD carries first, as wither does double duties on them). If there are any, proceed to step 2. If there aren't, go to step 6

    2) charge the fuck out of the carries until they shit bricks. If they run before you get in wither range (and you won't catch them at your current speed), go to step 3, otherwise, go to step 7

    3) If Shurelya's Reverie is up, pop it and return to step 1. If not, go to step 4

    4) If Ghost is up, pop it and return to step 1. If not, go to step 5

    5) Return to where the team fight is happening. Go to step 1.

    6) Attack whoever is nearby, and wither whoever is attacking a carry.

    7) Wither the carry, pop Q, and smack them in the face. Go to step 1 (although it's basically a formality, you'll find yourself back at step 7).

  • Unique Skills

    All of Nasus' skills are quite unique.

    His Q starts very weak and gets stronger and stronger as you use it more and more.

    His W is a ridiculous slow (pretty much the highest in the game) that might as well be a snare and takes away from the enemy laner any ability to attack. It's also one of the only Ccs that scales as it goes on.

    His E is a solid debuff (basically for your Q)

    His ult gives you health and sunfire capes, as well as some AD.

  • Pros/Cons

    Really good damage, even though built tanky
    Much less kitable between , , , and [item_icon=Force of Nature]
    Better against AD bruisers (Wither and early armor)

    Not very good vs duo AP compositions (wither and early armor)

    I think that sacrificing Aegis of the Legion (making you less of a tank) is alright, because you aren't the team tank, tasked with protecting carries, but the team off-tank, tasked with destroying carries.
    Against AP top champions, you may want to level Spirit Fire over Wither. I never do, but I see the reasons for it. I just play passively against AP laners.

  • Summary

    Nasus is normally a very picky champ, who should only be played on or against specific teams. This is evident when you try and change the items proposed by Hyfe. Against good kiting teams, he is basically locked into that build (and against really good kiting teams, even that may not be enough). This build, as such, is designed to cover up his weaknesses. The Lich Bane build gives you nearly the same survivability and more damage, but plays to Nasus' strengths, not his weaknesses, and as such only belongs in a game where he is well supported by his team, and well counters the other team (even then, the standard build is safer).

    Just remember, you aren't some glass cannon Nasus, killing people with 2 Q, but unable to get in range against good teams. You are Jason Vorhees, The Terminator, Rambo, and The Juggernaut all wrappped up in one: no matter what the other team does, you chase down their carries while yours mop their team up. They should want to focus you to stay alive, yet have no chance of killing you because you are Nasus, and you take shit from nobody.

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