A little over three weeks ago, Jayce was added to the League of Legends. Jayce was an exciting addition for me, and I immediately bought the character and started trying to piece together a successful build and playstyle. Unfortunately, I could never really get over his clunky attack animations when he changed forms (especially the 1st cannon attack animation) and after a few days I decided to give up on him and work on a new top laner to replace my Pantheon and Darius who were simply not yielding results at the time. After some putzing around with Irelia, Gangplank and Wukong for a couple nights, I decided to sit down and figure out what was frustrating me about top lane before settling on a character. My list was only three items:
- Ultimately, Ranged ADs take over the game. It doesn’t matter how fed a bruiser is if they can’t do anything to the opposing Ranged AD. Need a character that is either a Ranged AD themselves or directly impacts Ranged ADs, either by killing opposing quickly or somehow protecting or benefiting mine.
- Counterpicks can make top lane very lopsided. Need a character with a lot of good matchups and few bad matchups, preferably no unwinnable matchups.
- Top lane snowballs stupidly hard. Need a character that is useful even if opponent snowballs. Also need a character that can snowball with an advantage.
After looking over these, I decided to revisit playing Nunu solo top. As a high sustain character, Nunu is robust to both issues 2 and 3 above, and Blood Boil, Ice Blast, and Absolute Zero are really perfect for buffing your ranged AD while debuffing the opposing ranged AD. Also, Nunu received a nice set of quality of life buffs in the Jayce patch and I was hopeful that I could adapt Nunu successfully to top lane.
Now, I’m not going to pretend I invented playing Nunu solo top, it’s been a cheesy build for years, but it’s never really been more than that. Neoillusions (from Team Liquid) and I had been trying to find a way to legitimize Nunu playing top lane in Febuary but we eventually gave up when we hit a wall with the build. We were mostly trying to make Rod of Ages, Will of the Ancients and Frozen Heart as a core, but this build had a lot of weird timings that weren’t really working out unless you got fed in lane (needed to rush RoA to make it efficient, but resists outperformed HP in lane due to consume; not enough Magic Resists to deal with bursty casters midgame). So while I was hopeful that these buffs would help solo top Nunu, I also knew the build needed some work.
My initial games with top Nunu revolved around building Philosopher’s Stone, Heart of Gold, and Kage’s Lucky Pick to generate income while providing good early game stats, then transitioning towards high resist items after Hextech Revolver (which, if you didn’t know, is just hilarious with consume). Early iterations tended to follow up immediately with Sorcerer’s Shoes into Abyssal Scepter (a la Galio builds) for the combination of Magic Penetration and Magic Resist, then selling off Philosopher’s Stone for Frozen Heart. This build was reasonably good, but later in the game I found two major issues. The first is that Nunu tends to sit in the front of his team in poking phases, and as such, not having Mercury Treads or Ninja Tabi was a big liability in terms of potentially getting caught. The second is that even with Frozen Heart, I was running out of mana if I tried casting as many spells as I wanted to cast in these drawn-out poking engagements.
My knee jerk reaction to this was to fall back to the old Rod of Ages-centric build that forewent Magic Penetration, but the build still felt dated and off. The issue is that Rod of Ages gives survivablilty and Mana in entirely the wrong forms for Nunu. Because of Consume, Armor and Magic Resist vastly outperform HP, not to mention that Nunu has the highest base HP at level 18 in the game. And because of Nunu’s incredible ability to outlast everyone in a fight, having a high base Mana pool isn’t as valuable as having high Mana Regeneration. Enter the only new and interesting contribution I’ve actually made to playing Nunu…
If you’ve never even seen this item, it’s Athene’s Unholy Grail, the Chalice of Harmony upgrade that they added into the game about two months ago. And it completely breaks Nunu. With Athene’s Unholy Grail, a Glacial Shroud, and a Hextech Revolver, Nunu becomes one of the most potent characters I’ve ever seen in League of Legends (depending on your level and timing, you can easily solo baron with these items). Once I discovered how powerful this item is on Nunu, the rest of the build was a fairly straight-forward set of the usual suspects on Nunu.
Masteries: 9/0/21 (standard) or 9/21/0 (vs. tough lanes such as Rumble or Riven). The point here is to get enough CDR from masteries that Grail + Frozen Heart will max out your CDR. If you can afford it, getting utility to get Mastermind is ideal, but ultimately you take what you have to in order to be competent in lane, so take defensive masteries if you have to.
Runes: Marks: Magic Penetration, Seals: Armor, Glyphs: Magic Resist, Quints: AP. A lot of people ask me why not run Gold/10 runes on Nunu, but all I can really say on this is that Nunu has enough potential to be an early lane bully that I think it’s foolish to pass up on high flat stats on any rune slots.
Summoner Spells: Flash + Ignite. It’s really hard to kill anyone without ignite, so take it, and Flash is a no-brainer at this point I think…
Skill Order: QEE(Q or W)ERE(Q or W)EQRQQWWRWW. Take Q level 1 and eat opposing large wraith + small golem from the golem camp (if you’re blue) or your own golem camp (if you’re purple, start by attacking big golem twice, then eat small gol, then smack the big gol while kiting, then eat it when Q comes of CD, this should let you regain the remainder of your missing HP with your first Q in lane). Take W at level 4 or 8 depending on how badly you need level 2 Q to sustain in lane, but make sure you get it by 8 at the latest to escape opposing ganks and support friendly ganks.
Because of Consume, Mana Potions are more efficient than HP Potions as long as you can get to a creep to eat. Having an HP potion to build a buffer if you ever get knocked really low is always useful, hence why you buy one, but outside of that mana pots are actually very good on Nunu.
Nunu’s not a tremendous farmer, so getting income items lets you roam as necessary without compromising a lot of farm and guarantees your midgame-endgame build regardless of any efforts from the opposing team trying to shut you down.
If you need quick armor against your opponent:
Ninja Tabi are absurdly efficient and if you’re having trouble vs. a physical damage dealer, buy them sooner ranther than later.
Follow up with:
Chalice is crucial to the build. Once you have it, you are immovable from lane, so even against physical damage dealers, I prioritize it rather highly.
Then upgrade boots if you haven’t: or
As I stated in the write up, these boots are crucial to being an effective tank later in the game.
Next three items as you see fit: + +
Typically I rush the Grail at this point, though sometimes I’ll throw shroud in beforehand if I need armor. Revolver is usually overkill early, but if you need the sustain boost, it provides a ton to Nunu.
I always get Frozen Heart and either WotA or Gunblade. Gunblade may seem silly, but remember that Blood Boil incidentally greatly increases your Attack Speed, so it can put that stat to good use if your team doesn’t need a WotA from you. Outside of those two, your last two slots should be fairly straight-forward conditional picks from the remaining items I list here. Typically my games don’t make it to these last two items, though I’d say that Aegis, Abyssal and Omen have probably been my most popular choices, though Deathcap and Wit’s End certainly do have their places in some games.
So with all that being said, all I’ve really added to Nunu is Athene’s Unholy Grail. Was that worth writing 1500 words on the subject? If you ask me, it sure was. I’ve gained over 150 elo since developing this build. I’ve posted over a 65% win rate with Nunu in over 60 games, all at over 2000 elo. And most importantly, I feel untouchable playing this character with this build. Sometimes, all it takes to break open a ton of potential is finding the one missing piece of the puzzle, and that’s what I believe I’ve done with Nunu.