Nasus has been in the news more than usual lately. Nasus main and full time streamer SirchEz recently signed to Team Liquid (as a streamer, not an LCS player), and just today, Cabochard of Team Vitality picked Nasus in a professional LCS match against G2 Esports. The hyper scaling raid boss style champion is typically reserved as an off-meta solo queue pick that fares well against low kill pressure lanes which allow him to farm safely. This is a champion that is rarely seen in high ELO, and almost never picked in the LCS.
Every champion in League of Legends is designed to have weaknesses that counter balance their strengths. Nasus is a BIG late game problem thanks to his siphoning strike (Q). Every time Nasus uses siphoning strike to last hit a minion, he permanently gains 3 attack damage (1 damage per stack). Nasus can gain 6 attack damage by last hitting siege minions, or champions with siphoning strike. Combine a couple hundred siphoning strike stacks with his crippling slow, armor shred, and health increasing ultimate, you’ve got a champion that can often take on multiple enemies by himself in the late game.
This is the Nasus solo queue players are afraid off. Rightfully so.
This all sounds awesome for aspiring Nasus mains, but that monstrous late game isn’t guaranteed. Nasus offers very little lane pressure early on in the game and is often forced to farm under turret against high pressure opponents. Against a savvy top/jungle duo, you may find yourself getting tower dove, and if you’re especially unlucky, they will freeze the lane on you. This forces you to over extend in order to get any CS at all, making you extremely vulnerable for a return gank.
Even if you survive the early game and get your stacks going, it may be difficult to team fight against certain enemy team compositions. Nasus offers a TON of late game damage, but he doesn’t have much mobility. A short attack range makes him susceptible to chained crowd control and kite heavy champions. It doesn’t matter how many stacks you have if you can’t get any siphoning strikes off in a team fight.
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No matter how many siphoning strike stacks you have accumulated, if you can’t get within range to hit the enemy champions, you aren’t going to have much fun.
Today Nasus was picked in the EU LCS by Vitality’s Cabochard, to go up against Rammus, played by G2’s Kikis. In solo queue this is a favorable match up for Nasus; Rammus is not a threat to Nasus at all in the early game, allowing the Nasus to stack up his siphoning strike in peace. This was the rationale behind the last time Nasus was picked in the LCS; ZionSpartan (now Darshan) chose Nasus 6 times in 2014 to take on mega-tanks such as Maokai and Dr. Mundo. Darshan won 3/6 of his Nasus games in the LCS, but unfortunately for Vitality, Cabochard is currently 0-1 on the champion after today’s performance.
That isn’t to say that Nasus isn’t viable in certain situations in the LCS. There’s no denying that a Nasus could be a good pick into a Rammus, but perhaps the supporting champions must be more carefully chosen. Vitality was extremely light on engage potential. Aside from turning an enemy engage, they were completely dependent on high risk mechanical outplays like an insec, or Shurima shuffle to force fights. Even once G2 forced skirmishes, Vitality had only slows from Nasus and Janna as crowd control. Nasus needs his enemies to be locked up in order to get any damage off, otherwise he’s stuck blowing flash and risking being out of position.
At the end of the day Cabochard’s Nasus pick will likely face more criticism than it deserves. Vitality was caught out countless times around the map, and that made a bigger impact on the game than the Nasus pick did. Nasus has worked in the LCS before, and it will likely work again. Today’s game gave us a free lesson on the importance of drafting champions that can excel within a specific team composition. Before you select your champion in your next solo queue game, try to identify your teams strengths and weaknesses. Even the strongest champions can’t escape a terrible team composition.