Nunu Build Guide by Pinstriped
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Nunu was the very first champion I bought. After a while of ignoring him, I came back with a new idea of how to play him.
This is a powerful, laning Nunu build. I don't like to jungle with him for two reasons: other jungle champs like Warwick, Shaco, and Amumu seem better/easier to me, and Lane-Nunu is just more fun for me. There are a ton of jungling builds out there if that's what you need. This build is for Nunu to stay on the field, effectively outlasting opponents and pushing your lane.
This is the first build I've ever done in any detail, and I've found my games have greatly improved. Constructive criticism is very welcome. Mostly I want to see if more experienced players out there think I'm going in the right direction, and at the same time hopefully give ideas to people looking for various Nunu builds.
Priority runs R>E>Q>W early game, R>E>W>Q late game.
Visionary is one of the primary ways Nunu can stay laning so long. 7 attacks turns into a free ability use. Early on this means you can save your mana for emergency chases or escapes, and later on it helps smooth out your mana use. Prioritize your spells while keeping this in mind; if you want to use both Ice Blast and Blood Boil, use your free spell on the blast since it's more expensive. With one of the more recent patches, they finally put a counter icon for Visionary, so you can monitor its progress more easily.
Consume is a lifesaver. Primarily it heals you, letting you lane longer and get some surprise escapes by eating while you run. Less importantly (for this build) Consume lets you farm gold quickly, killing or mostly killing any creeps in your path.
At level 1, your health will typically be dwindling from people trying to stop the Ice Blasts, but at level 2 you can eat up a minion, putting you right back in the game. It is important to watch your mana / Visionary status early on so you can chomp on a minion whenever you need.
Mid and late game, Consume gets the added benefit of helping you jungle a bit and take out pets. Maxed out, it can take out about half of Annie's Summon: Tibbers (or more if you out-level her a good bit), it can completely take out Teemo's Noxious Trap and Heimerdinger's H-28G Evolution Turret, and doing a quick bit of jungling is much easier when you deal 900 damage in one go and heal 425 (plus AP). The reason to finish this last is because late game you'll have enough AP to get enough healing most of the time, and Blood Boil becomes more useful at that point.
Blood Boil is great. It's not as important as Nunu's other abilities early on, between your slowing, damaging, and healing. The speed boost can save you a lot of times, and with the slow from Ice Blast you can catch / escape nearly anyone. One nice thing about it is the cheap mana cost and cooldown; if you have the mana, you can always have Blood Boil up. It also helps you run back into the fray after recalling. DON'T forget to use it on your allies (or even a minion if you're soloing) because you still get the full effect.
Early game, you won't notice any huge benefit. Nunu can't afford to be too greedy without minions around to eat up for HP, so long runs aren't too necessary. The attack speed will usually help you more due to Visionary than the movement. The movement speed does permit you to put off your boots a little longer and get your all important Banshee's Veil even earlier. That said, one point early on is enough to help out.
Mid and late game, Blood Boil helps more with movement and teamfights. Ranking it allows you to outrun just about anyone, ensuring ganks go more smoothly and saves more successful. Share the buff with your best DPS teammate in teamfights to keep things going in your favor. Maxing it second is vital for this point of the game.
Ice Blast should always, always, ALWAYS take precedence. It gets kills, it allows escapes, it annoys, it does everything.
Early game, focusing on one opponent with an Exhaust / Ignite + Ice Blast can lead to a quick kill or at least force them to retreat. With it's short cooldown, you can annoy opponents away while you calmly take out minion hordes from a distance, building up Visionary while you farm. Be careful not to run out of mana in case you need to slow someone from chasing you.
Mid and late game, the obscene amounts of AP you accumulate can quickly lead to 600+ damage from Ice Blast. With cooldown reduction and magic penetration, you can win most 1v1 fights, especially if there's a minion nearby to eat up for health. Ganks become much easier when you can take a big chunk of their health with a slowing attack. Similarly, Ice Blast can save teammates being chased by giving them extra time to get to safety while Blood Boil speeds their escape.
Always max your ultimate, as with nearly every build for every champion. By the time it has 2 points towards it, 1000 damage is easy, and by 3 points double that. 2.5x AP and already high damage is ridiculous.
The only problem with it is that any stun / interruption stops it. Ways to get around this are Banshee's Veil (see items), carefully watching the opponents to see when you can sneak in to catch them without a stun, teamwork to stun them first, and (the most fun) surprising them in the bushes. Note: Zhonya's Hourglass does NOT help you here since it breaks any channeling. Be sure to Ice Blast your main target first so you can be sure to keep them in range.
Ambushes can quickly turn around as 2 or 3 enemies die starting from half health. An important thing to remember is that you can decide to finish Absolute Zero at any point by right-clicking somewhere to move, just in case someone is about to escape. The damage will be greatly reduced, but it won't be a complete waste. Late game, you'll be able to use this ability nearly every team fight, making you a deadly force. You will be the target of just about everyone while channeling, so be careful.
For an offensive build, I find Exhaust and Flash to work wonders.
Exhaust can help your escape, but I've found it more often than not helps ensure a gank to finish. It can turn a teammate's escape into a gank on the chaser. With Cripple, Exhaust is crazy powerful, lowering magic resistance which can make a huge difference to Nunu's attacks. It also helps your team whittle down your target by keeping them in range and lowering their defenses.
Flash is considered one of the best spells for all of its applications. It's a popular choice for helping Absolute Zero catch opponents by popping in between your targets and their escape route. Flashing through walls also is great for escaping, flashing farther away keeps you alive long enough to get away, flashing blah blah blah- Flash is popular for a reason. On Nunu it gives you the added benefit of securing your ultimate's positioning.
I think Ignite is the best alternative. First, in a gank against someone with good escape methods, the damage from Ignite can get a surprise kill. It also helps get kills on difficult champions to finish off (i.e. healers or raging Tryndamere). More importantly, Burning Embers gives 10 AP while Ignite is in cooldown. That turns into 10 hp from Consume, 10 damage in Ice Blast, and 25 damage from Absolute Zero. While it doesn't always get a kill from itself, the synergy with Nunu's AP is well worth it. It's certainly more useful early game, but it gives you a good lead on the other team most of the time.
I feel that I should always give a nod to Teleport. Nowadays I rarely play games without it, and when I do I find myself missing the maneuverability. Port onto a minion or ward, cast your ult, kill some people. Lots of fun. I also take a little too much pleasure out of teleporting onto a minion under turret fire, rendering it invulnerable and giving my team extra time to destroy the tower. For a 5v5 game, I always consider teleport, but for Nunu you have better spells to take.
Marks of Insight for magic penetration should be your reds. Magic pen is the biggest power you get overall and much more difficult to build in items. Opponents stacking magic resist can shut down a mage, so counter this as much as possible. You should ALWYAS take these for your marks for Nunu. Nothing improves your gameplay better.
Seals of Clarity build great mana regen. With increased mana regen and Visionary you should rarely ever have to worry about mana drain. Per level outperforms flat mana regen runes by level 5, so there's little reason to pick those over Clarity. Evasion also works well if you want to build a little more tanky if you put your masteries towards dodge (and Nimbleness) and get Ninja Tabi for your boots, but I don't recommend dropping your Sorcerer Shoes.
Glyphs of Force are really the best option scaling AP. By level 6 they give more AP than flat AP runes, and by level 18 you'll have about 36 AP (with Rabadon's boost). I used to always go with Glyphs of Focus to get a little cooldown reduction, but overall I don't think they're as helpful. The only ability you'll find yourself waiting on frequently is your ultimate.
Quintessence of Insight to get even more magic penetration gets you closer to dealing full damage. Unlike your marks, you could switch these out for Quintessence of Potency for flat AP, starting you out with an extra 15AP for an early game boost.
In summary: Insight Quints, Insight Marks, Clarity Seals, and Force Glyphs. Back ups are Potency Quints, Evasion Seals, and Focus Glyphs. Never give up those Insight Marks.
I highly recommend reading this article to see what you want in your runes pages.
There's a great deal to be said about the Utility tree and Nunu's abilities, namely with regeneration and cooldowns. Defensive points can be useful for a more tanky build. The offensive masteries pack a lot of power, most notably giving magic pen. Nunu can be built in any number of ways and be successful; for a laning build, this is what I find successful.
Perseverance, Expanded Mind, Meditation, and Intelligence all help Nunu spam his abilities endlessly. Utility Mastery keeps whatever buffs you might eat while jungling a bit longer. Quickness + Blood Boil help make up for not finishing your boots early on. Blink of an Eye and Presence of the Master are obvious picks from the Utility tree.
Cripple has already been covered, and it can mean the difference between a kill and a recall. Archamge's Savvy, Sorcery, and Archaic Knowledge all lend to Nunu's Ice Blast, which is where most kills come from. Burning Embers is also on this tree if you take Ignite and want to focus more on pure power rather than abilities, but don't drop Archaic Knowledge for it; only take Burning Embers if you decide to dump more points into the Offense tree.
I find that starting with a Ruby Crystal is most helpful. I've experimented with several items, but having extra HP up front proves to be very effective and keeps you laning longer. It builds into Banshee's Veil, which you want as soon as possible. While Sapphire Crystal does this as well (and allows for potions), strategic use of Visionary should keep your mana reserves adequately filled. While Doran's Ring is pretty, Nunu is pretty awful at farming. Saving your gold is very important, especially early on.
Next, Boots: by level 4, having Quickness masteries, one point in Blood Boil, and Boots of Speed leaves you with respectable enough speed. Go with a Catalyst the Protector if you can so you can stay out in the field a little longer.
Banshee's Veil is the most important item to rush. The HP, mana, and magic resistance are nice, but the spell block is really essential. Proper strategy and timing with your ultimate can go a long way, but the spell block can keep it going through an otherwise interrupting ability.
I see far too many players skip this item. When I see a Nunu three or four items into their build that doesn't have their Veil yet, I always recommend it. They usually refuse, claiming they don't need it and it doesn't help. Then they complain that their ultimate never finishes and they always die to slows and stuns. Please, trust me when I say this: Banshee's Veil is as important to Absolute Zero as a Rabadon's Deathcap is. Try it out for a few games if you don't play with it already. You'll come to love this little spell shield. No matter what else you do with your items - if you drop your magic pen boots for some cooldown reduction or tenacity, if you build nothing but AP and ignore other effects, if you stack up tank items or go with spell vamp for survivability - no matter what you do with Nunu, ALWAYS BUILD BANSHEE'S VEIL.
I used to always choose Mercury's Treads as my shoes; CC reduction and magic resistance saves you from a lot of deaths. However, with the addition of the Tenacity ability (see Moonflair Spellblade below), then Sorcerer's Shoes are definitely the way to go for the magic penetration. You don't want all the AP in this build to go to waste just from a little magic resist.
If you go a more defensive route and take dodge masteries and runes, Ninja Tabi work well too, but that leads to a tankier build than this guide is made for. Ionian Boots of Lucidity present another viable option if you want to pump up your CDR, but I still think Sorcerer Shoes are the best boots.
If you are not leveling very quickly, you might be able to rush boots before Banshee's Veil and still get both before level 6, but remember that it's vital that you have that spell shield for your ultimate. You might not be as fast without boots 2, but Quickness and Blood Boil helps make up for that.
After Banshee's Veil and your boots are finished, it's time to start building up massive AP. Lich Bane is perfect for this as it grants 80AP and a fantastic ability.
It adds your AP to your attack after an ability use, essentially turning Ice Blast's damage into 275 + 2AP + 1AD. Finishing off opponents becomes a lot easier. It also makes farming creeps and pushing towers easier. Typically the best item to start with is Blasting Rod, but Sheen is good too if your opponents have high magic resist.
Rabadon's Deathcap is the best source for AP and should be rushed first. With Lich Bane it gives nearly 300 ability points (transferring to 300 health from Consume, 300 damage on Ice Blast, and 750 damage from Absolute Zero). If you are stuck in a ranged battle, consider putting this before LB; the burst ability doesn't help you if you can't land a hit, and Rabadon's will help a lot more with your ranged damage.
Abyssal Scepter gives good AP, and the reduction of nearby enemies' magic resist is crucial. Remember, magic resist takes out a percentage of your magic damage, not a flat rate, so AP builds need magic penetration. The magic resist you get is just a bonus. Really, Abyssal is one of the best items in the game for mages. While most people jump at Void Staff, the percentage penetration doesn't help as much as the flat reduction once you factor in runes, masteries, and boots.
There are a few other options:
Archangel's Staff is the best remaining AP item. It adds more than 100 AP at level 18 and also grants a nice boost to mana and mana regen. The passive is also really nice, slowly building up mana and even more AP. If you're a fan of the item, invest the 695 gold for Tear of the Goddess early on to build up some mana.
Rod of Ages is nice for any mage. The reason I don't include it in the main build is because it's more important to rush Banshee's Veil in most situations, and RoA is crucial to get early to get full effect. Overall, other items grant as much if not more AP. With the buff it received recently (slapping Catalyst's level-up-regen into the Rod) it became more useful, but I still put it on the 'maybe' list. If you want to rush Rod instead of Banshee's, then it becomes more worth while, but I get better results without it as this build is already pretty expensive.
Deathfire Grasp has AP, mana regen, and a very nice ability which at level 18 deals about 46% of their current HP in magic damage (you can expect around 500 AP at level 18 with Deathfire). This makes it great for starting fights with a Cho, Sion, or Mundo with insane amounts of health. It also gives nice cooldown reduction, allowing for more frequent uses of your ultimate. Alternatively, Nashor's Tooth gives AP and cooldown reduction while giving attack speed (good for Visionary) instead of the active ability, but only pick this up if your team needs you to help push towers. With Lich Bane and Nashor's, you're able to deal a lot of damage, but Deathfire is better for a mage build. If you do go with Deathfire, grab Kage's Lucky Pick as one of your first items to get the most out of its gold-per-10 ability.
Morello's Evil Tome gives some of the best cooldown reduction in the game with a healthy amount of AP. I find myself grabbing this quite a bit as my last item to help Absolute Zero be ready for every teamfight. If you want to put more CDR in your build, it's probably better to go with an early Lucky Pick into Deathfire as described above; the extra gold throughout the game and activated ability outweigh the slight difference in CDR. Still, as a last minute item to grab after you finish your core, Morello's is absolutely fantastic.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter gives health and nice AP, but you can get those from other items. The main reason to take this item would be the passive ability. From what I've read, it DOES stack with Ice Blast, but I really don't consider it enough over other options. Ice Blast and Absolute Zero are your only abilities that would trigger the slow, and they already have fantastic slows on them. Plus you have Blood Boil to move faster yourself. You have speed on your side most of the time without this, but if you're really a fan of it, it's not a terrible item.
I go with Guardian Angel occasionally when my team needs more tankiness. It has a bit of defense, and the resurrection ability is great for Nunu since he can Consume while running away to refill even more health.
More magic penetration and AP from Void Staff is always an option, especially when the other team has a very high magic resist champion. You could also take this instead of Abyssal Scepter, but you get a healthy chunk from Insight runes, the Archaic Knowledge mastery, Sorcerer's Shoes, and Exhaust (with the Cripple mastery), so at that point Abyssal is probably as good if not better for magic penetration while giving the same AP and bonus magic resist. If you take other shoes or don't take Archaic Knowledge or Insight runes (which there's no excuse for), then consider this over Abyssal. (See here and here for excellent in depth evaluations of flat vs. percent magic pen and AP).
Moonflair Spellblade is a neat alternative to Mercury Treads when you find yourself against a bunch of crowd control. While not quite as effective, it gives you 50 AP and allows you to take Sorcerer's Shoes as well. I highly recommend this item if you're laning against annoying champs with multiple CC abilities like Lux, Cho, or Fiddles.
Mejai's Soulstealer can be a huge windfall to a good early game. It's cheap, it adds tons of AP, and if you're able to keep your stacks, you'll be unstoppable. I don't include this in the main build because, by design, stacking items are most helpful in situations when you don't need them; the more you kill the other team and the less they kill you, the better it is... but at that point, you don't need as much help from it. Still, a good option if you believe in snowballing items. Slipping it in before Banshee's is possible since it is pretty cheap, and you might be able to finish both before you hit level 6 if you are good at last hitting. (Thanks to Jetter for the suggestion!)
Will of the Ancients helps for late game survivability. Considering how much damage Absolute Zero deals and how much damage you will be taking as you channel it for 3 seconds, WotA can save you quite a bit of trouble. Plus, the aura means your team will also be sturdier in teamfights. Alternatively, if you've built Nashor's Tooth and are a bit more physical, Hextech Spellblade provides lifesteal on top of spellvamp, but usually WotA will be better. However, you shouldn't need to rely on items for you healing when you have Consume in most situations for bigger bursts of healing.
Randuin's Omen or Frozen Mallet can work great if you find yourself in more chases than normal, the first if you need to be more defensive and the second to be more offensive. They meet the same problem as Rylai's in that Nunu doesn't really need more speed advantage.
Thornmail and Sunfire Cape are good, inexpensive amor items as well for 1v1 and team fights respectively if you want early defense. Frozen Heart pumps up your armor, mana, and CDR quite a bit and slows enemy attacks but is a tad more expensive. I recommend it as a final item if you want more bulk. Between Banshee's Veil, Lich Bane, and Abyssal Scepter, you have plenty of magic resist, but not much armor, so one of these items can help a lot if you find yourself dying quickly.
If, somehow, you are still playing after you've completed your build (which has happened all of twice for me) don't forget to buy elixirs. Elixir of Brilliance is great for Nunu, as is Oracle's Elixir to find stealth units (remember, you can Consume Teemo's mushroom traps only if you see them).
This is a pretty expensive build, yes. I rarely get through Rabadon's - which is at the 11000 gold mark - in 3v3 and rarely beyond Abyssal - above 13000 - in 5v5. What's important is to get early defense so you can spam your abilities with what boosts you have to full effect.
Overall, Nunu is a fairly straightforward champion (hence the "recommended" tag he gets from Riot). He deals a bunch of damage, the other guys fall down. A lot of people can play Nunu decently, but this part of the guide will hopefully give you an edge. These are not for every situation. Some of these are fairly generic, but they do have particular tie ins with Nunu's abilities. Sometimes it just takes someone pointing out the idea to make it stick.
1. Harass -
Early game, be sure to harass with your Ice Blast. If you're soloing, get between the enemy creeps and their champion. Keep the enemy away from your creeps and their XP. Whenever they get close enough, scare them away. If you're lucky, you can get a level or two lead in your lane just by stunting their XP growth.
2. Watch your mana -
As discussed earlier, Nunu is able to lane a long time with careful usage of Visionary. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is spamming abilities behind your wave of minions and running away; you don't kill off enemy creeps - netting you no gold and less XP - and you don't build up your free spells. Kiting is not the best idea with Nunu.
It's not a bad idea to grab a mana potion early on, especially if you're playing closer to your turret. Running out of mana as you chase someone back to their turret breaks your chain of slows. This becomes less useful when laning with a partner.
3. Play off your free spells -
It's tempting to not cast spells once you build up Visionary in order to save it for when you get into a fight. If no one is around or they're hiding too far away to attack, pop your free spell as a Blood Boil. The attack speed boost will help you clear the wave and get another free spell quickly. If you already have the buff up, just use Ice Blast or Consume so you can start building up another. If you've auto-attacked 7 times with Visionary ready, you've just wasted a spell.
4. Be a good support -
People see Nunu, they think "AP Damage" or "Jungle" and little else. They don't take into account Blood Boil's fantastic buff. It has a low cost and affects you AND an ally; don't waste it on yourself. If soloing, plant it on the biggest minion. Otherwise, plant it on your laning buddy (hopefully a DPS).
If you see a teammate in trouble, Blood Boil yourself to get there faster, Ice Blast the closest enemy, and Blood Boil your teammate to get them out of there. In fact, if you have more than a quarter your mana, never move without using Blood Boil to get there faster. Once you get to your teammate, stick yourself between your partner and the other team; getting in the way of a skillshot might make the difference between them living or not.
5. Eat wisely -
This should be obvious, but don't Consume minions near death. Eat one at full health. you'll probably kill it, and if not it will have one hit left (unless they're super minions or jungle creeps). Likewise, don't waste the ability on normal creeps with a tank minion or super minion behind them.
When grabbing Baron or Dragon, you're a likely candidate for tanking it. Make sure you don't use Consume unless you are missing some HP already.
If you're making an escape through the jungle at low health, judge if you have half a second to chomp up a neutral monster for some HP. I'm not saying to start jungling, just to use the ability to get some health back while you run. Only do so if you have a little bit of a lead on your chasers and have enough mana for a follow up Ice Blast.
Minor point, and one you shouldn't bank on so much as keep in mind: Consume does a lot of damage to creeps. If you find the other team getting baron buff (or dragon buff in 3's) and you can time it right, you can steal the buff for your team. Play off wards and Flash wisely. This is HIGHLY situational, but if the buff could end the game one way or another, you dying for it might be well worth it. Plus it's hilarious to pull off.
6. Coordinate ganks -
With a speed boost and a slow ability, you are a great teammate to gank with. If you've taken Flash, you're especially well suited to jump someone. After level 6, you can block off the entire lane or escape route by yourself. If a chase ensues, you have Blood Boil to help you and your partner catch up with them.
7. Explore the possibilities of your ultimate -
Absolute Zero has some of the best damage in the game. That said, most people use it only to take out champions. And while that is what it should be used for most of the time, there are other options.
As mentioned above, your ultimate can block off an escape route. You still might get the kill, but even if you don't your teammates will have extra time to catch the other team and get the kill for you.
The diameter of the blast zone is wide enough to affect a whole team of champions at once. That range slows anyone within it. If you have multiple teammates near death, you can slow all of their chasers at once with your ultimate and deal hefty damage as well. With any luck, you will give your teammate enough time to run, and the chasers might be distracted and panicked enough to get caught in the radius.
If the other team is getting dragon or baron and they have taken a decent amount of damage, jumping in front of the exit and using your ult can do one of a few different things. 1. You might kill them all due to their lowered health. 2. If you time it right, you might get the buff (though Consume is safer, easier to time, and much funnier). 3. If you have teammates there to help gank them, the radius of your ult will slow the other team down without hopes of escape.
When pushing turrets, inhibitors, or the nexus, swarms of minions and a champion or two severely limit how much damage you can do. Popping your ultimate will take out all the minions and scare off the other team. If they stay close to continue attacking, you might die from turret fire / enemy attacks, so plan carefully. If you can take two or three enemies down with you and ensure a teammate can get the tower, you can win games. Few people expect you to stand there, by their turret, channeling your ultimate. Use that to your advantage.
That's how I play Nunu. I have practiced it in both 3v3 and 5v5 to great success. Since I rarely manage to build to the end of the build before we win or they surrender, any input on late game use of this build is especially helpful.
I don't claim it's the absolute best in the world, nor is it the most unique build ever, but I find it pretty effective. It's gone through several tweaks, and each seems to have made gameplay more consistent and reliable. If you like it or dislike it, please tell me why so I can improve the build. If you have any recommendations for the guide, please leave them in a comment and I might add them in.