Hello, my name is Gentleman Gustaf, and today, I have with me a very special guest: Hyfe. Hyfe is best known for his all-inclusive guide on Nasus. I could go on for pages about how many Nasus games he's played, or how in depth his guide is, but I'll just let this picture speak for itself:
Today I’m going to talk with him about what makes Nasus a fun/good/useful champion, discuss his progression of builds through Seasons 1 and 2, and finally, talk about what we can expect in Season 3!
I was drawn to Nasus because I liked the idea of an inevitability of a victory through slow, careful, methodical play; it’s the same reason I find CLG.EU so enthralling to watch. Why did you start playing Nasus, and what made him your favorite champion?
My love of Nasus started pretty early in my experience with LoL. I started playing in open beta in around October 09. While I was leveling up no one really knew who the strongest champs were because the game was still pretty new. I think I was having a go at Master Yi around and was around lvl 20 or so. I was farming pretty well with Yi and thought I was sitting pretty. I ran up to top lane to gank. Wasn't even really familiar with the champion I was ganking. But when I showed up in the lane to gank, my ally and I both got shit on and double killed. I didn't really even know what the champ was that killed us, or how he did it. It was Nasus. I remember thinking "I want to do that". The more I looked into his kit and realized it was about farming passively for as long as possible and then just crushing the entire team, the more I was drawn to him. I mained him the rest of my way to level 30 and had about 5 or 6 hundred games on him by the time S1 rolled around.
If asked about Nasus’ weaknesses, most people would immediately say ‘weak laning phase’. However, aside from really early levels, I've never found his farming or trading to be weak (and this is normally what we mean when we say 'weak laning phase'. Instead, for me, his two problems were extreme mana-dependence (allowing energy champions like Akali or Kennen or Lee Sin to force him to use his non-Q skills defensively, and run out of mana) and extreme susceptibility to early jungle pressure (again, forcing him out of mana early, even if he survives). Can you walk us through what you think Nasus’ weaknesses are in lane?
Unfortunately there's just no way I can answer this one succinctly, so I'm going to have to ramble for a really long time, because this is a pretty important topic to me. Understanding who Nasus is and what is actually holding him back from viability in both competitive and casual play is something that I think is really important for the community so they stop spouting misinformation.
First off, I'd agree with you to an extent on the laning. That is kind of a hot topic for Nasus because he's always been considered a weak laner, which is sort of a misnomer. He is certainly weak in the first few levels because he has low (old) base stats and no effective damage trade since his Q does nothing early on. He does have the life steal though, so if you know how to abuse lane positioning and bait enemies into pushing, you can stay near your tower and heal up pretty easily. Obviously some of the strongest laners -- fuck you Teemo! -- can crush you, but if you have proper runes and masteries and itemize smartly, after the first back or two (TP helps with this), you can survive most champions. Part of the problem is people think that you have to kill the enemy, or take their tower, or massively beat them in CS to "win" the lane. That's not the case with Nasus. Don't die too much and get decent Q farm and you've pretty much won with Nasus. So yeah, his very early laning is weak. You can't go toe-to-toe with a Riven at lvl 2 and expect to win that trade. But ultimately you can win the war. That is what Nasus is all about.
On to your second point about mana costs. That really didn't used to be an issue back in the day. Everyone had mana issues. Shit, champions had mana period back then. Now in top lane half the people don't even have mana, and most that do don't have the high mana costs to make it a concern. It wasn't until more recently that this started to become a glaring issue - the fact that everyone else could use their spells more effectively to trade and harass and farm, while Nasus was stuck with archaic mana costs, and if you tried to cast anything other than Q, you risked going OOM. Some of the mana changes (specifically the flat 20 Q cost) are going to help him a lot I think. I'm hoping it will make Philosopher’s Stone or Chalice of Harmony unnecessary and let you spring quicker for CDR and tankiness.
On a side note, I think mana in general is becoming more of an issue in the game in terms of effective itemization for various roles, because of the edge up that it gives manaless champions since they don't have to itemize for mana or mp5.
People seem to think up that these weaknesses are all he has; that once he leaves the laning phase, he's OP. What do you say to that?
Outside of the laning phase lie the real weaknesses of Nasus though. One is kiting. Some players will argue that you can't be kited because you have Wither. Most informed individuals realize how ridiculous that is. You are a melee champion with no gap closer, no form of built in cc reduction, speed boost, or had cc, and 1 real damaging melee range ability. The enemy team has 5 champions full of escapes and cc. And you aren't going to be kited because you have Wither? Please.
So you build around the fact that you're going to be kited. You get ghost to try and boost your mobility and stick to people. You get all the cc reduction masteries and tenacity from items you can. Last season I had Shurelia’s Reverie core. You go Iceborne Gauntlet so that hopefully your 5 second wither will do enough to let you get in range to hit them once and apply the slow proc and give you time to wither again. It's just a really big weakness of his. But I think it's a necessary weakness. You can't give Nasus a gap closer. He is such a potent champ, he needs that weakness. You've got to find a way to combat it though smart counter picking, smart itemization, summoners, masteries, etc. Being kited is such a frustrating weakness for Nasus, but is part of the challenge, and without it he's just easymode and OP.
But probably the biggest issue with Nasus is just his rate of scaling. The simple fact that he takes so much longer than other champions to ramp up is what makes him weak. His early game is meh and his mid game presence is very lacking. You want 30 minutes or so to farm and really get to the point where you feel like a monster and can actually carry. By that time, the game is over. The game has shifted towards early aggression, snowballing lanes, pressuring towers, and going for early wins. So suppose you pick Nasus. You ask your lanes to play safe, draw out the game and its a sure win. Just ward up and avoid dying, you say. Well, your lanes are now feeding. A normal top laner has the potential to dump on their lane, then go roam and help out their team. Nasus doesn't have that. You don't dump on any lane. If you go to roam, you are weak because you haven't farmed enough Q yet or gotten the big items you need to be effective. If you stay top to farm your Q, your team continues to feed and get further behind. Now the game has snowballed and all the Q farm in the world doesn't matter because your base is being pushed and the enemies are 15 kills up. Was it your teams fault? What if you had picked a different top lane that could impact the game early and mid? Would things have gone differently. So you see the real problem with Nasus.
In Season 1, the build core of the day was Aegis of the Legion + Trinity Force. By Season 2, we’d moved to Trinity Force + Frozen Heart + Shurelia’s. Did anything change, or did people just get better at Nasus?
Nothing really changed, people just got smarter. I posted a Nasus guide on leaguecraft shortly before S1 because there wasn't really a good Nasus guide to be found at that point. My build was inspired mostly by Messiah (LoL beta streamer and eternal solomid cutie), and was just about getting beefy and using trinity as your damage item. Back then people also used to just put 1 point in Q because it didn't give any more damage as you lvled it. People used that build for quite a long time before I started to realize the potency of CDR on Nasus.
It was right when they changed Q to gain +3 per Q from +2 that I (and I'm sure lots of others) realized how much stronger it would be to max Q to lower the CDR and be able to farm it faster, and that buying CDR items would let you do it even faster. I completely revamped my guide, which was on solomid.net by that time, and changed to a Shurelyas+FH+FoN+Trinty core. About 2 months later Skyyart used that setup on Nasus in a tournament and everyone called it Skyyart's build. Then S3 and all the item changes and the switch to gauntlet. Now with the coming patch there are more item changes, Nasus buffs, Q crit (bug?), and it is looking like the itemization might be overhauled again.
In Season 2, the more I played Nasus, I found myself moving my Trinity Force later and later in the game. I found myself finding the Sheen proc very efficient, but at the cost of paying for AP, and felt like most of the Zeal stats (movement aside) were somewhat wasted. Plus, the Phage slow just felt a bit silly on top of Wither. Was Trinity Force really the perfect Nasus item in Season 2, or was it just the only available option as a solo offensive item? I personally know that in Season 2, I was starting to replace it with LW.
I think Trinity was just a carry-over from his original build and a sensible option for him because it was just such a strong item in general. Sheen was always kind of an overrated thing on him when you look back at it - it only worked off your base champion AD, and really was just a minor damage boost. However, trinity also used to provided a good bit more move speed, and the phage proc was nice. Lots of stats were wasted or so-so on it though. I think bypassing TF was completely viable on Nasus, and a lot of people did. Just building pure tank and maybe adding a LW to amplify your damage was just as viable as building a TF. Since then it has seen some nerfs and isn't the same powerhouse it used to be. When gauntlet came around I think it was an easy sell as a sort of TF/FH combo that gave you some of the benefits of both, plus some added utility, for much less money. Now with the possibility of full Q crits being a thing (we still don't know if this a bug or wtf is going on) and the change of IBG only having 10% CDR, I could see a build where people completely bypass any sheen item and instead look to purely optimize their CDR and tankiness and then add a crit item late game becomes a possibility. Full tank Nasus + IE? Does ghostblade become an attractive option? Who knows exactly what's going to happen just yet.
As a result of my thoughts on Trinity Force, I found myself opting to get Glacial Shroud and Shurelia’s first, because it seemed to make my laning phase much safer, and allow me to farm up more efficiently. You and other notable guides such as iUmashi’s seemed to have reflected a similar trend. Can you outline the reasons why you want Glacial and Shurelia’s earlier?
Glacial + shurelyas earlier was just the logical move. Top lane champions were getting stronger and stronger. You couldn't get away with something silly like sheen rush. The fact that early CDR options such as glacial and kindle also provided tank stats (armor and hp) and turned into even better items with amazing utility was just a no brainer. Stronger laning items + more cdr became the top priority, and I think it still is.
I’m excited about a lot of the new Season 3 items. First, let’s talk laning phase. Do you feel the new items help Nasus out? I think the ability to start with rejuv bead, faerie charm, or Flask (now outdated but worth mentioning), and still pick up a ward for early ganks should really help him, especially with level 2 ganks being a little less common. What do you think of these item starts?
S3 item changes are pretty good to Nasus for the most part, bot in lane and out. Flask was really strong, but once it got nerfed I wouldn't get it much anymore. With the upcoming mana changes I definitely don't think it's needed. Mass pots is really strong top right now, so opening with rejuv+pots I think is the best bet in most cases, unless you want cloth+5 vs the AD monsters. I'd start with a ward on Nasus but the thing is I just never ever push the lane early. I tend to bait out some early aggression which causes the wave to push towards my tower after just a few waves. I also abuse TP to back pretty early on Nasus for your first set of items, at which point I always get a ward.
Follow-up question: I always felt like the weakest part of itemization for Nasus was the lack of available CDR: you were basically pigeonholed into a specific build, and if you needed health or MR early, you were even worse off. Essentially, between Wither and armor, you were either really strong or really weak, depending on whom you laned against. But now you have so many mid-game items in the form of Locket/Frozen Fist/Shurelia's/Spirit Visage/Frozen Heart (I'm biased towards the tankiness). Are there any other CDR items you like?
That's true, and prior to the S3 buff to SV he didn't really have any good mr/cdr items at his disposal. I think it's a lot better now because you have good choices for CDR that have health, armor, mr, whatever tanky stats you might need. With SV being buffed yet again to 20% CDR, it's almost impossible to resist now unless the enemy team has virtually zero magic damage. While you can't quite get as much CDR early (with glacial being down to 10% from 15), overall your CDR itemization is much improved with more options.
The items you listed are pretty much the only cdr options I see as viable on him. Now that crit Qs may remain a thing, ghostblade might be an additional choice (builds out of avarice, has lots of stats you like and an active that really synergizes with your ult). I don't think BC is that good on him because you don't have a very good way of applying the stacks quickly and tankiness is too crucial for you to be building this kind of hybrid item. For arpen, just add LW late game if you can afford it.
In lane I tend to go locket first vs an AD, then go fist and add SV. Against an AP I tend to bypass locket and get a chalice/SV combo and then gauntlet. Sometimes I buy a philo vs AD bruisers, sometimes I don't. I think the mana change to Q will eliminate the need for a philo.
Outside of CDR items I think mostly just tank items are wise, with exceptions being maybe LW. The best tank choices right now outside of your core I think are probably randuins, bulwark, sunfire, and warmogs.
In regards to early brutalizer into black cleaver, I just don't think thats optimal. It could probably work, but against tougher lanes you will get punished for your lank of tankiness. You don't outright trade very well, so a brutalizer doesn't strengthen your laning as much as it would for an agressive bruiser. And again, going quick into BC makes you squishier and not as effective as getting your cdr from early hp and resist items.
Do you have any small tips and tricks that you employ to help your lane phase? For example, you already mentioned playing with minion aggro early to get your lane to push.
Unfortunately there’s not a lot of cool hidden tricks or anything like that for Nasus to pull off. He’s pretty old fashioned and straight forward. The most important thing is just making sure you have the right setup (runes and masteries) and you are itemizing as efficiently as possible. I recommend having at least a rune page to go against AD and a page to go against AP.
One thing that is important to understand how to utilize is the fact that your Q resets your attack animation, which can be used a few different ways. First is when you have 2 minions low that are about to die, you can auto 1 and then Q reset to quickly get the other that you might normally not be able to get with an auto. You can also use the auto reset to get a bit of extra sustain. If your HP starts to get a bit low, start auto+Qing minions that are safe for more lifesteal rather than just Qing them. Aside from that… it is all about learning the matchups and knowing what CS is safe to go for based on their abilities, and being constantly aware of potential jungle ganks.
In Season 2, I spent a lot of time first picking Nasus to test out alternative rune/mastery pages and builds, just to see how well I could beat Nasus' counters. Standard rune pages (9/21/0 or 0/21/9) seem to be the best; I prefer the latter but the former may become stronger with the mana changes to his Q? But as far as rune pages go, do you ever deviate from Armor Pen/Armor/MR on your small runes?
I’m running 9-21-0 right now and I think that will definitely be the best after the mana cost changes. For runes I generally don’t mess with the small runes much, I just have 2 pages that I choose from – one with flat mr blues for casters, the other with scaling mr and some flat armor mixed in. Adding in some flat armor reds or blues is definitely an option against super strong AD bruisers though.
And on Quints, I tend to find myself running Armor/MR/HealthRegen/LIfesteal depending on the lane: is there anything else you've experimented with?
I’ve tried a boatload of quints. Back in beta flat HP quints were the strongest. Movespeed quints are definitely an option as well. Flat AD are pretty good against an “easier” lane than won’t be harassing you excessively, because they make it much easier to last hit under tower. Against a very difficult lane I think hp5 quints are the strongest, though I pretty much always use lifesteal quints. By level 4 or so they become more effective than hp5 in terms of regen, and they obviously scale much much better because of the bonus dmg you stack on your Q. Lifesteal quints = 20 lifesteal at lvl 1. Yes please.
I think that he actually can do well against a much wider range of champions than people tend to think, although I tended to hate laning against Olaf, Udyr, Kennen, Teemo, Vladimir, and Akali, no matter what I did. Looking at those, it seems like I really hate mixed damage laners. Perhaps I should have experimented with health runes? What champions do you hate laning against most? I haven't played top Nasus much in the last 6 months, but I imagine I'd hate Darius...
The champions that really give you the most difficulty are often manaless champs with great harass (akali, kennen, vlad, rumble), and any champ that can push you to the tower and then continue to effectively harass you underneath it (teemo, olaf). Nasus matchups are really weird… because he can be beaten by so many champs, but ironically he does well against some of the champs that are considered to be the strongest laners (Yorick, Darius). Yorick you just stack pots and eventually you can outheal his constant harass and farm off his ghouls. Darius you just stack armor against and 90% of the time they will push the lane trying to harass and then you can last hit/heal under your turret.
Any last things you want to say, Hyfe?
Sure, couple things. I’d like to say thanks to all the people that have responded positively to my guide over the past 3 years. It’s been a weird experience for me… because a lot of people call me a “pro Nasus” player. I’m far from a pro. I finished S1 as a gold player, S2 as a gold player, and will probably finish S3 as a gold player. There’s the old saying: “Those that can’t do, teach”. I think that’s very applicable here. I’m not an amazing player, I just played a lot of games with one champion and wrote a guide that, as it turns out, lots of people liked. It’s been really nice knowing that I have been able to help out a lot of people and leave my mark on the community.
I’d also like to apologize for the fact that my guide is a bit slow on the updates lately. I wrote the guide when I had much more free time on my hands. Now I’m married and working full time as well as going to school full time, so I don’t have nearly as much time as I’d like to update the guide, or even just play League. Once the next patch of Nasus buffs come out I’m gonna give one big last ditch effort to get the guide as updated as I can, and then I think I may be done. I will probably collaborate with some other Nasus players to keep the guide updated and accurate.
It’s a pretty exciting time for Nasus right now with the changes he’s getting. Be on the lookout for jungle Nasus – it’s coming! If anyone wants to talk Nasus, you can jump in the “Nasus” chat on the NA client, there are usually a few Nasus nuts in there, including me. I guess that’s about it!
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