Kay so it's time to get real about Nasus
Hi, its me again, that guy who makes big threads about champions I like.
I've been putting this one off for a while, but I think it's time I try and get real with the community about Nasus. I don't often see threads about him, but when I do, it's usually filled with a LOT of misinformation about his strengths, weaknesses, and playstyle. People asking for buffs to him get downvote locked pretty fast, or no good discussion about him ever comes up. I think this is for a couple reasons:
1) He's not popular. People have very little experience with or against him, because he just doesn't show up often.
2) He looks good on paper and has a lot of "Yeah, but!" strengths. People see things like Wither, which strictly speaking is the best single-target MS/AS slow in the game, and assume that Nasus has to have a lot of comparative strengths because of that.
3) A subset of #2, He's an (odd) victim of translating infinite potential into infinite power. A lot (and by a lot, I mean basically all) Nasus threads end up in the same place really fast. They get to "But if he gets farmed..." and then everyone sort of nods their head and agrees.
So, what I'm going to do here is a little different than my usual piss and moan threads. Rather than say Nasus is bad, or suggest certain buffs, or anything like that, I'm just going to try and explain away a lot of the misinformation about Nasus. You can come to your own conclusion about him after I've made my points, and I think a lot of people would prefer it that way, much like they'd prefer Nasus to be a no-cap farmer to a capped farmer with power spread elsewhere (for those of you who don't get what I mean by this, I'll explain).
I'm going to try and keep this thread relevant to modern times. Hyfe laid out a TON of great points about Nasus a long time ago, some of which have been fixed, even. You can find that thread here:
That thread, however, is over a year and a half old, and the game has changed drastically since then. I'm going to build this thread around more modern concerns with Nasus. I'll...try and keep this thread shorter than my usual posts, though there's no guarantee it won't be insanely long. I can't help myself sometimes.
I think I'm going to structure this from pick/ban phase all the way through to the end of a typical game, to give it some order. It will help address his strengths and weaknesses in a logical progression.
So, queue has popped and you're deciding who to pick and ban. You've already hit problem number one!
#1) Nasus is bound by criteria that only serve as enhancements for other champions:
Okay, so I know Hyfe hit on this a long time ago, but it's still one of his biggest issues today. Nasus has a very, very hard time fitting into most team line-ups, and once he does meet the proper criteria, there are a vast many number of alternative picks than can fill what you're looking for. Put simply, you should have all of the following before attempting to pick Nasus:
There are a lot of other concerns, such as the enemy team having low amounts of CC, or a lot of high HP targets. But for now, we'll stick with the big three. I think you can already see the problem. Right away, with the first point, you eliminate half the roster. While Nasus CAN farm against aggressive laners, it's entirely non-optimal, and many other picks are much better suited to handle aggressive lanes than Nasus. Additionally, Nasus is a very poor initiator of fights, and attempting to do so can get you focused down incredibly quickly, or leave the enemy team open to a very simple dis-engage. In most cases, if you don't want to fight Nasus, you don't have to. Combined with the effectiveness of his ultimate, Nasus is someone who really only shines in the presence of the CC of allies. Please try and understand this distinction: Unlike other champions who excel further with the help of CC, Nasus is reliant on it. Riven, or Darius, and many numerous other champions who lane top can hold their own without allied CC, but it is essentially a pre-requisite for Nasus - you HAVE to have it, or an alternative pick is better.
So, let's assume everything is peaches and the teams are ideal for a Nasus pick - you have someone you can probably farm well against, you have an initiator, and your team has some great CC. Awesome! Time to pick Nasus, right?
Not so fast. Remember this point, if any, that I make in this thread: Nasus does not excel with these conditions - he is bound by them. Now that Nasus is an ideal pick, he's actually no better off than many various alternatives. Nasus isn't the choice pick even with these conditions met, he's now only held comparable to other top lane choices. You haven't made Nasus the end-all best pick for this situation, you've made him a viable pick. All that work, and champions like Udyr, Lee Sin, Darius, Jax, Shen, etc are still just as capable as laning as you are, and in many cases may still be the better option, depending on how both your team and the enemy team has picked. Nasus is bound to these conditions to work well - other champions simply benefit from them.
Right, so, you decide to go Nasus anyway. That's fine, he's a viable choice at this point. But you're still going to have to contend with a few issues:
#2) Nasus is highly non-retaliatory, and it costs him a lot to do so.
So, you're in top lane where all the action happens. And by action I mean level 2 ganks. The ones you have a hard time benefiting from. See, while Nasus gets stronger as the laning phase goes on as he's able to farm his Q and a bit and level wither, he loses out on one serious advantage about top lane and that's the snowball aspect of it. Unfortunately, while it is entirely possible for Nasus to gain an advantage in his lane, he doesn't gain nearly as much power to show for it. He has incredibly low in-lane killing potential (especially without outside help), and even if he does gain an advantage, it really only translates into less susceptibility to being bullied. Unless your opponent is somehow getting absolutely crushed, you being buffed up really only translates into impunity to farm which, while good for Nasus, isn't as effective as what other champions get for snowballing: zone control and resource denial (if you've ever been losing a top lane to an aggressive champion, you know exactly what this feels like).
But, that deals mostly with what Nasus gets out of snowballing. What this section intends to focus on is his difficulty to snowball in the first place. There are two parts to this. First, jungler resources tend to be wasted on Nasus. Level 2 ganks, if they happen fast enough, occur before Nasus can get a point in wither. If they occur after Nasus gets wither, it's still not a great tool for securing a kill - the slow is poor at early ranks, and flash nullifies it pretty quickly. This problem doesn't remedy itself too much as time goes on. Nasus does not gain nearly as much killing power at 6 through his ultimate as many other champions do, and still relies on increasing wither ranks to help out jungle ganks. It takes until level 8 or 9, when you finally have more than a point or two in wither, before you can really help out your jungler in getting kills for you. And, in jungle time, that's a LONG time to wait. It works both ways, too. Nasus isn't nearly as helpful assisting junglers who get into trouble near his lane because his low -> high power curve.
Isolated from jungle ganks, Nasus still has problems on his own with trading. Now, I'll admit, his sustain can be pretty incredible at times. However, it takes a long time to ramp up, which leaves him incredibly vulnerable at early levels. More importantly are his trading tools. Every second you spend fighting is time you're devoting to not farming, and you lose out on it more than most. For one, it's a fact that you're going to have to use your Q to trade. Before you get cooldown reduction, this means you'll probably end up missing a few creeps with your Q had you otherwise been not fighting. However, the real issue comes in with the act of trading itself - Nasus absolutely has to use his abilities to trade, and I'll be honest, the costs are pretty high. Wither costs 80 mana, and isn't super effective at winning trades against champions who doesn't rely on autoattacking for most of their trade (Riven, Darius, for example). If you use Spirit Fire to trade, you get put even more in the hole - it costs 70 mana at rank 1 and scales up to 130, more than most ultimates. Additionally, every mana point you spend trading drains you of the resource you're using to farm - if you're constantly using your abilities to trade (and you'll have to if you want to win or break even on the trades) you're going to run out of mana to farm up your Q pretty fast. Even if you win the trades, there's no guarantee you'll have enough mana to secure a kill. This gets to be less of a problem as your lifesteal increments, but it's a big enough issue for a significant enough amount of time that it gives Nasus some pretty glaring weaknesses.
So you survive the laning phase, and are pretty well off, for the most part. Assuming you didn't get crushed, you probably didn't resoundingly win your lane either, but that's expected, you're Nasus. Laning phase over. Time to branch out, do objectives, and generally help your team. Let's go, Nasus! Nasus? Oh, he's still farming in top lane.
#3) Nasus' power comes from non-interactivity
Must just be a bad Nasus, right? Farming top lane while his team needs him, and the laning phase is over.
Actually...a pretty large proportion of Nasus' power comes from farming his Q. A lot more so than similar "farm it up" champions like Veigar and Sion. See, those two scale off mechanisms outside their innate stat gains. Veigar gain AP off killing a champion with his ultimate, and he scales with ability power. Sion also scales off ability power, or builds AD if that's what he's going for and benefits from the lifesteal and attack speed of his ultimate. Nasus doesn't have that luxury, because he has no scaling mechanisms or steroids besides his Q. His entire power curve revolves around staying alive as possible to help his allies. The longer you stay alive, the more withers and spirit fires you can cast, and the longer you can lifedrain with your ultimate. This means Nasus naturally builds into being primarily tanky, with very few damage compliments (i.e. Sheen, Triforce). His only direct-attack scaling comes from his Q, which makes it an incredibly inseparable part of his kit. Other champions aren't reliant on a mechanism like this, and thus gain massive benefits from helping out their team. The opportunity cost for Nasus is MUCH higher. While he will obviously gain benefit from assisting his team, so much power comes from his Q that it can be decidedly hard to do so at times. Coupled with the fact that Nasus grows stronger the more he farms, it's not uncommon to see Nasus players passing up allied-goal opportunities to keep getting their Q farmed - especially because they feel comparably weak if underfarmed (That is to say, an underfarmed Nasus feels much weaker than an underfarmed Udyr, or Xin Zhao, or whoever).
This is actually a much larger point of debate than I can really spell out here. A long time ago when Riot was looking to do a bit of work on Nasus, this issue actually came up. Riot wanted to put a cap on Nasus' Q to give him power in other areas, while the players wanted Nasus' Q to remain uncapped, and retain that unique Nasus feel. Such a decision can be felt in this area of Nasus' kit still, and it leaves the future of his power in question as the game evolves. Speaking of Nasus' power...
#4) In all honesty, Nasus' comparative and cumulative power is pretty modest.
This section is going to be kind of all over the place instead of having a coherent theme like all the others, and I'm essentially going to try and hit most points that haven't been hit or done to death yet.
So, when comparing Nasus' strengths and weaknesses, it's pretty important to take into account all of the above. What is Nasus good at? Well - He has great sustain, a good AoE armor reduction, a heavy-hitting ultimate, and one of the best single-target slows in the game. What are his weaknesses? Well, all of the above, and more, really. I don't think I need to get into his kiting issues, or Wither's susceptibility to cleanse, quicksilver, and merc treads. Stuff like that has been done, and I think everyone is familiar with it. What I'd like to do instead is generalize his power in terms of the current game.
I think the point I want to make here is that a lot of people say a farmed Nasus is a game-ender, or that Nasus really shines once farmed and is great, and I just think of lot of those claims aren't true, and lack a lot of context. To begin, you have all the above issues outlined. By picking Nasus, even with the intent to be farmed up for late-game, you're giving up a ton of early game power, you're giving up top lane jungle help, and you're making top lane a much harder lane for your jungler to influence. You mid-game also doesn't shine either, and your late-game power is, honestly, debatable. You're strong, yes, but at what cost? There's a real misuse of words when it comes to describing Nasus. Some describe his lategame as unstoppable, or super strong. ...but relative to what? Is his late game that much stronger than say, Riven, or Olaf, or Tryndamere? How much time and strength are you giving up to receive what Nasus brings? What about champions like Udyr, Malphite, Xin Zhao, Darius, and Jax who have really strong early games - do they really fall off that hard relative the power that Nasus gains? Are they really that much weaker than a late-game Nasus, especially given that they're all incredibly strong for the first 25 minutes?
What about other champion roles in the game? Specifically, AD carries. See, other bruisers have the luxury of overpowering AD carries while they're still vulnerable. Nasus is relatively weak during that time. In practice, I find, that by the time Nasus becomes the farmed monster everyone contends, AD carries are typically melting through their opponents. Nasus makes up for that in some ways with Wither, but it's not an end-all solution, there are many counters and extenuating circumstances that prevent it from being that. Again, is Nasus withering an AD carry as effective as say, Olaf becoming Immune to CC and bum-rushing them? Or exhausting and rushing them with any other bruiser?
What about Nasus' strengths (or lackthereof) as a peel for his team? You can't really Wither the enemy team off your own AD carry - then the enemy AD carry rips yours apart. You can try and peel for your AD by bodyblocking for them and making use of your ultimate - but then you're not forcing the enemy AD or AP off your team by smacking them with your Q.
While this particular bit isn't making a case for or against Nasus, I'm just trying to contextualize a lot of the things people say about his balance. His late-game is not an end-all super power. Even if it were, he gives up a lot of valuable gameplay to get there. I think saying things like "a farmed Nasus is the scariest thing ever" just de-values the entire discussion, akin to "buy armor" or "CC them." There's no context behind the statement: no judge of relative power levels, no context for champions and their CC or lackthereof, no quantifiable levels of farm or effectiveness - it's just a shallow statement and I think we'd be doing Nasus a good favor to stop saying it.
...and I think that's it for now.
Again, I'm not trying to argue for Nasus one way or another, I'm just trying to highlight a lot of key issues I think people miss about him. I'm also not making any balance suggestions for him, I think I've done that to death with other champions.
If you were to ask my personal opinion on him, then yes, I think he's weak, even after his Wither and Q buffs from months ago. I think his weaknesses currently outweight his strengths, and that his relative power just isn't comparable to what you can get out of other fighters. Stats reflect this:
He's pretty darn unpopular, and across all Elos his win rate average something close to 45% or less - pretty low statistically speaking. He also has incredibly minimal data at higher Elos where he's seldom played, and he hasn't seen much, if any tournament play since 2010. When I play Nasus, I often feel like the only games I win are games where my team did well regardless of my performance, and rather than feeling like they carried me to late game so I could succeed, they just carried the whole game and would have won regardless of which champion I played.
But, regardless of my opinion, I encourage you to form your own. None of this could mean Nasus is bad. It might just make him super niche. I know some people enjoy that. Personally, I'd like to be able to used him in my ranked games, but if the overwhelming majority enjoys where he currently sits, then my opinion on the subject doesn't really matter.
So I obviously have my own biases that have probably shown through more than I wanted here, but I think Nasus deserved an updated thread about where he sits in the game, and a more respectful analysis of what he does well and not well than most threads tend to give him - he has a lot of subtle complexity that I think people have failed to grasp as the game has evolved, and I wanted to try and clear it all up.
As I typically do, I'll go and play some Nasus games now. I don't play him nearly as much as I used to, but he's still one of my most played, and in my top 3 favorites along with Lee and Ezreal. If you wanna spectate my games, send me a request - though I'll probably suck and feed (I probably won't play him in ranked, and my normals opponents usually range from 1500 to 2000 so it's a crapshoot).
Dog food for thought.
Edit: First game was a 5v4 and the enemy team just ****ed around because their Nautilus AFKed. Not a good indicator, unfortunately :(
Second game I jungled, which I don't have much experience with as a Nasus player. It wasn't as bad as I thought, though it was fairly slow and had 2 major problems. First was that, in order to expedite the jungle clear, I had to max E, which meant my W was stuck at 1 point for quite a while. I also I had to itemize in a way that didn't give me much CDR, which was pretty killer to deal with considering my entire gank consists of using W and E as much as possible. Definitely not something I'd consider doing again.
Third game was...also odd. Had an Akali go top with me for some reason so we just zoned out a Darius and I got a few kills, with Graves mid and a Zyra 1v2 bot. Breaking the meta I guess? I haven't actually gotten to play him in a standard setting yet. I might have to take it to ranked.
Fourth game - my first REAL game with Nasus - was freakin' epic. I laned against a Jax top (who, to be honest, was kind of derp) and I ended up carrying the game The best part about it was that I had an Ashe in champ select who doubted me, said gg before the game started because I was Nasus. That was a rare gem of a Nasus game that I don't often get, and I'm honestly surprised it happened. However, there were still a few points in the game where some of my above concerns came into play, and as such, I think I'm going to upload the replay of this game and use it to really point out Nasus' obvious strengths and weaknesses. It would make a great learning tool.
Also I like to bump these.
(Downvotes because they're long will not stop me from discussing champions, by the way. :))
I hate Nasus with a burning passion. I have to baby sit top all game in order to stop him from farming his Q. Oh joy.
Hey OP, did you ever consider playing him somewhere besides top lane?
Nowadays with the **** ton of gapclosers and CC and harass.
Nasus farming top has to withstand a barrage of hate
and in cases of Kennen, shen, Riven, IT NEVER STOPS. O gawwwd.
Whats worse is that the bruisers top you face use burst and skills to deal damage.
your wither does almost nothing.
Your only hope is your jungler to come gank.
No one cares about that dog
And it'd be pretty hard to justify sending him bot, unless you sent a strong 1v1 AD carry top like Graves.
It could work, but probably not well.
Mid: Harassed the **** out of by most if not all ap mids. Your wither does ****
Bot lane: Enjoy getting harassed because you have no range and counter harass. Your wither can be beneficial here but it wastes mana and you need it to Q.
Top lane is the best for Nasus because with a good armour rune page you can withstand some of the damage and try your best to sustain it back.
Also you are vsing 1 guy who is usually melee. It works in Nasus's favour... but this meta is seriously hard for Nasus (Riven, Kennen, Darius, Jayce, etcetc)
Though I see your point, I think it can work both ways. Noting that his power is limited might be more clear :) I guess I'll change it.
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