This archetype is ancient and famous in the Legends of Runeterra community, was forgotten after rotation, and now makes a triumphant return as one of the best lists for early, mid and late game.
I decided to write a guide on this list to help you if you want to play the Runeterra Open, as you'll probably face this deck a lot, or even if you would like to bring this list, but was on the fence about it!
Nasus Thresh - Strong at all Times
The Nasus Thresh archetype was the natural development of the long-gone They Who Endure archetype, which was very popular in Beta. As soon as Shurima was introduced to the game, this deck right away became one of the biggest dominant forces in the game.
That happens because it is one of the few lists which is strong early, mid and end game, and that also has a lot of consistency regarding card draw, removals, and good finishers. It has always been quite hard to compete with Nasus Thresh's grandeur, so much so that this list has taken quite a few heavy nerfs, including the Atrocity nerf, which was then reverted once the Eternal format came to be.
Currently, Nasus is quite dominant both in Standard queue and Eternal queue, because he got a rather small buff to his stats, getting +1/+1, but it was enough to make this Ascendant very strong. At the moment, this is the most played list, and the most recommended list to play in the Eternal ranked ladder.
The list counts with a package of Shadow Isles followers, which are very aggressive and cost close to nothing, and a bunch of spells which have synergy with allied units which are prone to dying.
This is probably one of the strongest combinations for early game, as hardly any other deck can play as many units with such high stats in the first few rounds for so little mana.
We're talking about how we can have, on turn 2, with a Cursed Keeper on board, a Ravenous Butcher destroying that unit for 0 mana and this way have a 4/3 and a 3/2 unit on board for just 2 mana total. That adds up to 7 points of damage very early in the match, and it costs almost 0 resources from your deck to do this combo.
You must hit your enemy early in the match without worrying much about losing your units, as long as they, when they're dying, destroy other enemy units. That will make your Nasus grow increasingly in your deck or your hand.
Eventually, you'll play Nasus on board, and he will be big enough to be an unstoppable threat on board. If he hits for 10 or more attack points, the game will be practically over, as all enemy units will have 1 less attack, and your champion will have Spell Shield and Fearsome.
In case your Nasus doesn't show up, no problem - Thresh is in your deck to make your Ascendant's arrival on board easier. After Thresh sees 6 units die, he levels up, and the first attack declared by this champion will bring a Nasus from your hand or deck completely free.
If your opponent can answer Nasus by blocking him or controlling him, you'll need to find another alternative as a win condition. Usually, that win condition will be in the hands of the spell Atrocity, one of the best finishing spells in the whole game.
There are a few secrets to using this card, and my main tip is: never use it if you're not 100% certain your opponent can't answer it, or in case you don't have any other choice, and you're losing next turn if you don't use Atrocity. Always use this card as your turn's last action, if possible. That is ideal, because, in case you're answered, there aren't ways to come back: the game will be over, and you'll have spent all your resources available.
This deck benefits from units with the keyword Fearsome a lot, and that is why it is likely you'll be forced to hoard stats on those cards in a few very specific matchups. Such as, for instance, Baccai Reaper, which works as a mini-Nasus, but without getting health points. This card may be a win condition tool if your opponent can't handle Fearsome units.
Usually, in Shadow Isles lists, it is common to look for cheap removals, besides healing and pings to make your early game quite strong. But, Nasus Thresh falls in a category that plays aggressively and defensively at the same time.
Even then, it is important to always have in your initial hand cheap and aggressive units which will force your opponent to take on a passive posture in the game. The perfect initial hand for Nasus Thresh must have the following cards:
It needs to be said that the Thresh Nasus deck, though dominant, suffers a lot if you don't have at your disposal cards that allow for the small combos in this deck to work. We're talking about stuff like:
In case these cards aren't available in your hand or on board, your deck can hardly do anything, as a great majority of your card draw and removal features, such as Hate Spike, need to sacrifice allied units to be played. As a result, the only flaw to Thresh Nasus is losing to itself, in case you don't draw your cards that allow slay spells to be played.
So, as much as you have quite an aggressive early game, it is very common for more experienced players to save Last Breath units in hand until they draw spells that combo with those units. Otherwise, your opponent can even take a lot of damage, but will eventually stabilize their board.
Think about the Thresh Nasus deck as a glass cannon, which explodes itself when shooting, even though it deals a lot of damage. From the first turn onward you'll be all-winning the match, in a certain way.
As one of the most played decks, we have records of it in all Runeterra meta databases websites. And for that reason, we can analyze this list's matchups very accurately.
There are some tricks to understanding what is good or bad against this deck. In a few words, Control decks are great against your list, and aggressive decks suffer against you, with a few exceptions which we'll discuss now.
Disintegrate + any damage spell already deals with your Nasus, not to mention it is relatively easy for this list to deal with Spell Shield. Culling Strike kills your Thresh right away, and the rest of your deck is easily removed by any spell or unit in Katarina Annie.
The only way to win against this deck is if you're fast enough and have the perfect hand to kill your opponent on turn 5 or 6. Otherwise, anything you do on board will be easily answered.
Karma Sett Shadow Isles - The region itself has the perfect tools to deal with the aggressiveness in our deck. And that is why Karma's absolute Control list with Shadow Isles is one of the best options to neutralize your strategies.
We're talking about heavy removals and heals; any damage that hits their Nexus in the first few turns will be healed, and every time Nasus is summoned on board, he will be answered.
Not to mention your deck enjoys finishing games with Atrocity, which is easily answered by a Deny. That is why, currently, Karma Sett is also one of the most played lists, as it is almost guaranteed to win as Karma against Nasus.
The Jax list doesn't stay behind Nasus rhythm-wise and doesn't run out of cards as quickly as you, and, with that, added with the potential of removing your units without losing their own, the Jax deck can achieve a big window of victory against your list, and usually closes out the game on turn 7 or 8.
Some of their freezing tools are also perfect to deal with Nasus, and prevent attacks with this Ascendant from hitting. Jax Ornn currently received the perfect healing resources to deal with more aggressive strategies, and that has also hit Nasus a lot.
Draven Sion - Though Draven's deck is also one of the best aggressive forces in the game currently, the Nasus deck is more aggressive. Your game rhythm is much faster, and your removals and combat tricks are always more efficient.
It all sums up, in the end, to who protects their units better, and our deck usually wins by a mile in that category, because no removal or unit from the other side can compete with a gigantic Nasus going on board. Your Atrocity can always be played safely against the Draven deck, as there are no ways of answering this spell.
Annie Jhin - The nightmare of competitive players has no shot against us. Annie Jhin has never been stronger, but, even then, stuns and direct damage can't compete with the best anti-Aggro spell in the game: Vile Feast. This card is solely responsible for ending the hopes of the Annie list. This spell, besides healing your Nexus, also summons a blocking unit, and the greatest issue for Annie Jhin are enemy blockers.
Spending a stun on a small spider is too expensive, but necessary, and, as a result, eventually you'll be able to create more value and manage your deck in a much more optimized way than Annie's list.
Poppy Ziggs - A great factor to Nasus' popularity is because Poppy Ziggs is also one of the most played decks in the Eternal queue. And, as your list is great against aggressive decks, everyone who played Nasus Thresh before quickly began winning a lot, because Poppy was in the meta.
There is no secret: your deck is just much faster, and has more defensive resources than any other aggressive list, including one of the most aggressive decks of all time, Poppy Ziggs. You'll always have more damage, removals, healing, units, and even card draws than this list - it even seems as if our deck was made to beat Ziggs.
Quick but very Important Tips
- One of the main mechanics in this deck involves increasing your Nasus' stats; as a result, it is extremely important that you are very careful with your units' order of attacks. Nasus must always be last, in case other allied units kill enemy units, because then your Nasus will get even more stats and can hit for more.
- Avoid using Glimpse Beyond proactively, as this card always works better if used as an answer to a removal.
- This list benefits from Rite of Negation's slaying effect, so, sometimes, it is important that you don't burn your mana gems to use this spell. But, be careful, as that is not always ideal - particularly against decks that bring Piltover&Zaun, due to Mystic Shot.
- Blighted Caretaker is one of the strongest cards in your deck if your objective is to deal damage. If you are planning to end the match as quickly as possible, it is very important that you try to protect your units during attacks, by pulling away blockers with the Saplings.
- You don't necessarily have to use Atrocity on Nasus every match. In some matchups, it is possible to even sacrifice units with high attack, such as Spirit Leech, to deal the 4 damage points that are left to kill the enemy Nexus.
- Remember: if your opponent destroys or slays their units by using their own spells, that doesn't count to growing your Nasus. You need to be the one to slay units with your cards.
If you've read this far, you now have all the knowledge about one of the best lists in the game as of today. Don't forget to share and comment on this article on social media! See you next time.