Nasus Build Guide

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Nasus Hybrid Tank/DPS (Work in progress)

written by Nillo

Nasus Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    The purpose of this guide is to describe how to play Nasus as a hybrid of a tank and a physical melee champion. I think this is the most effective way to build Nasus for several reasons, which I will detail below. If you have any comments or disagree with parts of the guide, let me know and I will correct it or explain anything that is unclear.

    Currently, the guide is a work in progress and lacks a bit of formatting. I plan to improve it in different ways and hopefully make it easier to read.

    Please note that this guide was written with Summoner's Rift in mind. I don't feel that Nasus is a strong pick on Twisted Treeline, and I much prefer playing 5v5 games, so this guide won't be very helpful to you if you choose to play on Treeline.

  • Abilities

    Soul Eater
    A fairly straightforward passive which gives Nasus a lifestealing attack. This is essentially the same thing as having a free Vampiric Scepter. The lifesteal will be applied on your Siphoning Strike, so it regenerates your health quite effectively as long as you keep attacking.

    Siphoning Strike
    My favorite skill on Nasus, and perhaps his signature skill. It provides a bit of bonus damage on your next attack. This might seem underwhelming at first, until you notice that it gains 2 damage every time you kill something with it. The added damage is permanent and limitless. If the game goes on long enough, this skill could grant you above 300 bonus damage for a minuscule amount of mana, and that does not take into account the bonus you can get from items such as Sheen and Trinity Force.

    This skill slows the target immensely, making it hard for them to run from you, chase you or attack you. At higher levels, this skill slows them so much that they are basically immobilized. However, they can still cast spells, so be careful if you use it on a mage champion.

    Spirit Fire
    Damages all enemies within a circle and reduces their armor. If an enemy moves out of the circle they will stop being damaged, so most of the time you will not be able to deal the full amount of damage to champions. However, it is useful if you actually want the enemies to move away from the circle. For example, if you want to last-hit a minion with Siphoning Strike but can't because an enemy is harassing you, you can cast Spirit Fire to make them go away for a moment, and take advantage of that moment to move in and feed your Siphon.

    Minions are completely oblivious to this skill and will not try to move away when you cast it on them. This makes it a very strong skill for farming and pushing. At higher levels you can destroy a wave of minions with a single Spirit Fire. But remember that you do not gain the permanent bonus to Siphon if you do this, so if there are only a few minions and you have time for it, you may want to kill them separately with Siphon instead.

    Fury of the Sands
    When you use this skill, you will immediately gain a large amount of health, and for the duration of the skill your speed will increase, you drain the health of enemies around you, and that health is converted into bonus attack damage. Needless to say, this skill will give you a great advantage in a fight. It is especially strong in large fights against many opponents, because then it will drain the health of all of them.

    Aside from making you stronger, there are a few other uses of this skill. You can use it to surprise opponents who think that you are low on health, and bait them into trying to kill you. When they get close and you cast Fury, the sudden increase in health could turn the fight in your favor.

    Also, if an enemy is chasing you and you need to run away quickly, you can simply cast this for the increased speed.

  • Pros / Cons

    What are your strengths and weaknesses when playing Nasus? As a hybrid of a tank and a melee champion, you can both deal damage and take a lot of it. Because of the way Siphoning Strike works, Nasus does not need a lot of items to deal significant damage. This lack of reliance on damage items allows you to focus all your effort on purchasing items that grant you a strong defense and mobility. Once you have enough defensive items, your enemies will have a tough decision to make. Killing you in a teamfight will be difficult, but ignoring you will be even worse, and if you can survive in the fight for the full duration of your ultimate, you have probably won.

    Nasus is not without his drawbacks. As a melee champion, the laning phase of the game is tricky. Ranged champions can attack you and move away before you can get close to them. If you try to use Spirit Fire on them, they can just move out of the circle. So you'll have to cast Wither and then follow up with Spirit Fire and Siphoning Strike to be able to hit a ranged champion. Nasus has lifesteal to help him survive, but the lifesteal requires that you continuously attack things, and the health gained from it is small early in the game.

    Finally, because you are a hybrid of DPS and tank, you will not be as good as them at their respective job. A real tank can take more damage than you can, and a real DPS has a larger damage output. But because your health and your damage are balanced, it's harder for enemies to focus fire. Smart opponents will try to ignore a tank and focus fire on a DPS, but you are both, so your defenses will be put to very good use.

  • Skilling Order

    There are two ways of skilling Nasus. You can focus on getting a strong Siphoning Strike early on, or you can focus on pushing and farming with Spirit Fire. Wither is a bit weak early on, and is normally not worth maxing before any of the other two skills.

    So how do you choose what path to go, Siphon or Fire? It depends on the situation. In general, I tend to go for Siphoning Strike. Last-hitting with the Strike will give you a permanent damage bonus that is very useful in the middle of the game. Also, while Siphon is not as good for pushing as Fire, this can actually be an advantage. If you don't push the lane too much, you can farm it longer and more safely than you could otherwise. Maxing Siphoning Strike first will decrease its cooldown and allow you to make it powerful much faster.

    On the other hand, Spirit Fire is a very safe choice because you can use it from far away. If you're facing a very strong lane such as Zilean and Soraka, it might be too dangerous to go into melee with the minions, and their AOE abilities will push the lane to you and possibly destroy your tower if you can't defend it. In that case, spending points in Spirit Fire will allow you to farm despite being weaker than your opponents.

    Finally, you need to consider your mana. Putting points in Siphoning Strike or Spirit Fire will cause its mana cost to increase. If you don't have any mana items, you may find yourself running out of it too quickly, and a level one Siphoning Strike costs only 20 mana but still gets the full bonus on each kill. However, with my item build, I have not found mana to be a big problem.

    Here's an example of a build that utilizes Siphoning Strike:

    You might think that a level 1 Spirit Fire has little use, but it is still quite good. Half of the armor reduction of Fire is gained at the first level, so it's still useful for that purpose. And even though the magical damage will be small, it has a psychological effect on your opponents. They will feel compelled to move out of the circle even though it doesn't do a lot of damage. It is stupid, I know!

    The above build is in the best case scenario, and by that I mean that it assumes your opponents won't try to push your tower or harass you. If you're having a hard time in the lane, you must adjust your skill build so that you can defend against an aggressive enemy, and put more points in Spirit Fire. Here's an example of how to build Nasus against an aggressive team:

    Even though your main skill is now Spirit Fire, you still want one level in Siphoning Strike. Whenever your strike is up, try to last-hit something with it. You're going to want the permanent bonus to damage to be a threat later in the game when your Spirit Fire starts getting weak.

  • Masteries + Runes

    Nasus is a hybrid, so he benefits from many types of masteries. In fact, I don't have any specific recommendation. I'm a lazy person, and as such, I don't change my masteries every time I pick a new champion. Right now I'm using a 21 Utility setup, with the 9 remaining points in the defense tree, and it works quite well. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to let me know.

    Quintessence runes that give movement speed are very strong and useful in the entire game. I highly recommend purchasing these runes, even though they are expensive. They are especially useful on Nasus because he needs to get into melee range and is vulnerable if he cannot lifesteal from something. If you want an advantage early in the game, you could get runes that increase your hit points. However, those runes quickly become less useful as the game goes on. The +100 or so hit points you gain from health quints is excellent at level 1, but a drop in the bucket at level 18.

    As for normal runes, I would suggest Mana Regeneration, Cooldown Reduction and Armor Penetration. An early Sapphire Crystal will give you some mana, but it's not enough for sustained usage of Spirit Fire, so you may want to get some regen runes for that extra bit of mana. The benefits of cooldown reduction runes are obvious, and since all four of Nasus' spells have a cooldown he can use them quite well. Finally, marks give you the option of Armor or Magic Penetration. These two types of runes both help you to some degree, since you are able to deal both physical and magical damage, but I prefer getting Armor Pen in order to have a stronger Siphoning Strike.

  • Summoner Abilities

    Summoner spells often vary just because of personal taste, so a lot of people will disagree with my choices here. All spells have their uses, and you want to choose the spells with the best or most important of those uses.

    Great spells:

    Flash - The Flash spell in its current state can be accurately described as "overpowered". It is the best escape spell (yes, better than Ghost) and does so many good things that pretty much all champions should get it if they don't already have a flash-like skill. For one thing, you can jump over walls with it, which normally saves you from pursuers. Secondly, when you use it, all incoming projectiles are destroyed - tower shots, Gold Cards, Veigar's ultimate and lots of other things go away. Of course, you can use Flash offensively as well, but it really shines when it is used as a lifesaver.

    Teleport - Allows you to globally teleport to allied non-champion units. This spell is known for giving you free shopping trips during the laning phase, which allows you to gain experience faster than your opponents. It also allows you to quickly push the top and bottom lanes because of the increased mobility. Less well-known is the fact that you can teleport to an allied ward with it. In the later part of the game, most towers will be destroyed. Most of the utility of this spell is lost at that point if your team has not placed wards strategically, so keep this in mind and try to have a ward with you if you can, for those quick healing/shopping trips to the nexus.

    Ghost - It's not as flashy (haha) as Flash, but it does have its uses. While you can't do as many cool tricks with it, it gives you more sustained movement, and is better if you need to travel a long distance on open terrain. If you combine this spell with Flash, your escaping skills will rival Harry Houdini.

    Cleanse - This spell helps a great deal against crowd control, one of Nasus' big weaknesses, and counters some champions really hard. It also has the generous cooldown of 100 seconds. It does not aid you when you are getting hit by raw damage, and it's less useful for chasing than Ghost, but it's still an excellent spell.

    Average/situational/okayish spells:

    Exhaust - This spell can shut down a physical DPS champion for some precious seconds, and helps somewhat in slowing a running opponent as well. I don't think it's particularly well-suited for Nasus, because he already has Wither, which does basically the same thing. Feel free to get it though if you feel that you need another slow/blind to deal with DPS champs.

    Clairvoyance - Reveals any area on the map for a few seconds. This spell has the lowest cooldown of them all, and the information it gives you could be invaluable. When in battle, though, you'll find yourself wishing that you had a spell with a more tangible effect.

    Heal - Some area healing is nice to have, I guess. It can be used to support your teammates, but since you are a tough and durable champion, the health it gives you won't make a huge difference.

    Ignite - Single-target damage over time with a healing reduction debuff. This is a great spell... but not on Nasus. He doesn't have any burst damage, and Ignite will not help him tank or move around in the battlefield.

    Bad spells:

    [spell=Rally] - Now that the healing ability of Rally has been nerfed away, I feel like there's no really good reason to pick this spell. It doesn't do a whole lot, and you can't move the flag around once you've placed it, so if the fight moves away from its original location you lose the Rally bonus.

    [spell=Fortify] - It makes allied towers invulnerable and stronger for a few seconds, but it's hardly enough to stop a dedicated push, unless several players on your team cast Fortify in succession. Most of the time, this type of push is the result of a failed teamfight. If you picked other summoner spells, maybe you would have won that teamfight instead, and then *you* would be the one pushing.

    Smite - What do you plan to do with it? Nasus is not much of a jungler, and he farms quite well without wasting a spell slot on Smite. It could be used to steal golem/lizard buffs if you put a ward next to the creep spawn, but it's underwhelming in all other respects.

    Clarity - Restores mana to allies in an area. In most cases, mana is not a huge problem, and you could just buy a cheap item like a Chalice of Harmony instead of wasting your summoner slot. The support aspect of Clarity has also started to grow weaker with the prevalence of non-mana champions lately.

    Revive - The Revive spell makes you really good at dying. Choose this if you want to die a lot and give the enemy team gold and experience.

  • Items

    Perhaps the most confusing part when you start playing Nasus is what items to purchase. There are many possible options. But in my opinion, there is just one item that is a must-have, no matter how you play Nasus, and that is Sheen.


    Sheen gives you a bit of mana and ability power, which is nice, but the most important thing is that every time you cast a spell, your next attack will deal 80% more damage. A level 5 Siphoning Strike has very low cooldown, so it works wonderfully with Sheen's effect. And because Sheen gives you mana, you can afford to max Siphon early in the game. The might of a Sheen-improved Siphon is not to be underestimated. It is powerful enough to kill a caster minion in a single hit, and only grows in power the longer the game goes on. DPS champions might scoff at this, since they are able to kill minions much faster than you can, but those champions do not have the defense that you have. They are not tank hybrids.

    Note that Sheen is a relatively cheap item. This gives you a lot of freedom with the rest of your item build, but remember that you are a tank hybrid. You do not need any other damage items than Sheen, and if you purchase more damage, you will probably be too fragile to walk into the fight. Because of this, I suggest that you focus on improving your survivability and your mobility.

    Since Nasus farms quite well after getting Sheen, you have the option of getting some expensive items to solve the survivability problem. I used to get pure health items for this purpose, but I have found that it's more effective to stack armor and magic resistance instead, because you already have a decent health bonus from your ultimate and resistances have some synergy with your lifesteal. When you purchase these items, you need to assess the threats on the enemy lineup and determine if physical attacks or spells are more dangerous to you.

    Against physical champions, you want armor and health, but armor items are preferred. Thornmail and Frozen Heart have the highest armor bonuses of the bunch, and of these, Thornmail is the least expensive item, while Frozen Heart provides the best bonuses aside from the armor. Randuin's Omen is also an option, but it's a relatively new item and I have not tested it thoroughly, so I'm not sure how effective it is.

    Against magical champions, the best item of them all is Banshee's Veil. It gives you everything you want - health, magic resistance, and a unique passive that blocks a spell every 30 seconds. This item is so great that you could even get it against non-casters, because almost all champions have something that can be blocked by the passive. Besides Banshee, however, there aren't a lot of strong magic resistance items. [item_text=Force of Nature] gives you a boost to magic resistance, but it's expensive and frankly the rest of the effects on the item are disappointing. Health regeneration in general is not worth the effort in this game.

    Whichever way you choose to go with your other items, you should take a look at Aegis of the Legion. It provides one of the best auras in the game, but only one person needs to get it, so make sure no one else on your team is making an Aegis before you choose to purchase it. It's also a good choice against balanced teams since it gives you a mix of armor, magic resistance and health.

    Finally, you may want to upgrade your Sheen into a Trinity Force. Doing so will increase the damage by a fair amount, as well as improve your mobility by increasing movement speed and giving you a chance to slow enemies on hit. Trinity does not give you as much defense as other items, so I do not consider it the most important of the items. Get it after you have solved all your defensive needs.

    Here's an example of an item build, in chronological order:
    Doran's Shield + one Health Potion
    Sapphire Crystal
    Boots of Speed (+more Health Potions as necessary)
    Mercury's Treads
    Aegis of the Legion (if no one else is getting it)
    Banshee's Veil (unless the enemy team is mainly physical)
    Frozen Heart and/or Thornmail (only if the enemy team has strong physical)
    Trinity Force

    Other items to consider:

    Chalice of Harmony - A lot of people like getting this item on Nasus to allow him to cast Spirit Fire more frequently. If you go the Siphoning Strike route, the mana you get from Sheen will be enough for most purposes, and adding a Chalice to your build is probably excessive. However, if you do not have mana regen runes and want to max Spirit Fire first, you may need this to keep your mana up.

    [item=Stark's Fervor] - Another aura item. Like Aegis, make sure no one else is getting it before you consider buying the item. It's a good choice when you have strong DPS champions on your team that benefit from the increased attack speed and lifesteal, but it's less useful than other items if you wish to maximize your own effectiveness.

    Ninja Tabi - If you face a lot of physical damage, this could be chosen instead of Mercury's Treads. It's cheaper than Mercury, so it could also be chosen if you want the extra movement speed early on and cannot afford to save up for a Mercury.

    Guardian Angel - Gives you a balanced amount of armor and magic resistance, and provides a passive that revives you once, effectively increasing your health by 40%. This item can be useful to bait opponents into thinking that you are an easy kill when you have low health. However, there are many situations where you'll just die again after Guardian Angel is automatically activated (for example, if you are the only survivor in your team and several enemies surround you) and if that happens, the revive charge on the item is wasted.

    Leviathan - A cheap defensive item if you're getting/assisting a lot of kills. At 20 stacks you will get 15% damage reduction and become very hard to kill. However, improving this item takes a lot of time, and many of the charges are lost if you die. I personally don't like the "snowballing" items very much, because when you win you don't need them, and when you lose they don't work.

    Warmog's Armor - This is the biggest health item in the game. However, it doesn't give you anything else, and it's pretty expensive. Consider this if you're farming extremely well and have no problem getting the minion kills required to fill it. The health regeneration on it is basically worthless, though.

    Sunfire Cape - Gives you some health and armor, which is nice against physical teams. The non-unique passive isn't too great unless you stack capes on top of each other, which is usually a bad idea anyway.

    Quicksilver Sash - This item is very situational and generally should not be purchased, but it is effective at countering a few specific strategies. For example, if you see a Mordekaiser on the enemy team and you don't have Cleanse as your summoner spell, you can pick this up to render his killing combo useless.

    Rejected items:

    The Bloodthirster, Infinity Edge - No. You are not a pure DPS and you do not need these damage items. If you get more defense instead, you will be far more effective.

    Frozen Mallet - Gives you more health and a slowing attack. The slow might seem useful, but remember that Trinity Force also has a chance to slow enemies on hit, and that item gives you many other benefits for its price.

    Berserker's Greaves - Attack speed has no synergy with your Siphoning Strike, and the resistance to crowd control gained from Mercury Treads is a lot more useful.

    [item=Heart of Gold] - This item gives you only a small amount of defense for its cost, and the gold gained per second isn't that great, especially on a champion who is already a strong farmer. In the new patch it can be built into a Randuin's Omen, so if you want to get that item you could purchase a Heart of Gold anyway, even though the Heart itself is a pretty bad item.

    [item=Tiamat] - Gives you splash damage on your Siphoning Strike, but if you kill minions with the splash damage you won't gain a permanent bonus from them. This should only ever be considered in abnormally long games after you've purchased all the other, more important items, and want to dish out more area damage in teamfights. The splash damage isn't as high as you would think.

    [item=Force of Nature] - This item gives you three things: Magic resist, movement speed and health regen. Any caster worth his salt will have the 15% magic pen mastery, and probably get Void Staff as part of their core build as well, rendering 55% of your resistance worthless. It wouldn't be so bad if only the other effects of the item were better. +8% movespeed is nice, but the health regeneration is awful and drives the price up to the point where getting this item is not worth it.

  • Playing with Nasus

    Because Nasus is a melee champion with little harassing ability, you naturally want someone who can support him in the lane. If Nasus goes together with a ranged champion that has strong harassing or healing abilities, he will be able to farm more safely with Siphoning Strike and won't have to spam Spirit Fire to defend the lane.

    Also, later in the game, you're going to want some kind of support when you run into a teamfight. Since you are not a pure tank, you can't take all the damage from the opposing team by yourself. Having a tougher tank on the team is very helpful, since they can run in before Nasus and attract the enemies' attention. After that tank has initiated, Nasus can more safely enter the fight, cast Fury of the Sands, and get to work on making the enemy team's lives miserable.

  • Playing against Nasus

    If you want to succeed when playing against Nasus, you should take advantage of his weaknesses. Specifically, you should try to ruin his lane early in the game. If you can prevent Nasus from feeding his Siphoning Strike, he will be much less of a threat in the middle of the game. The best champions to lane against Nasus are ranged champions with some sort of damaging skill that doesn't cost too much and can be used often.

    Later in the game, a big weakness of Nasus is crowd control. If he gets disabled, he cannot lifesteal from enemies and becomes vulnerable. Any type of disable will work, but the best ones are those that prevent physical attack and can be used from a distance, like a projectile stun or fear.

    Since Nasus is melee, ranged champions can kite him and attack without letting him get close enough to use Siphoning Strike. Ashe is a notorious example of this. She can shoot an unlimited amount of frost arrows and prevent Nasus from doing much of anything. Other ranged champions can get the Lizard buff from the jungle or purchase a Frozen Mallet to accomplish the same thing.

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