Originally posted on lolesports.com by James ''Obscurica'' Chen
Nunu has always been a jungling menace. With Willump the Yeti's impossibly thick hide, he shrugs off all but the dedicated attacks while he munches on everything from Golems to Dragons to Baron. Legions of junglers have despaired at the sound of Nunu's childish peals of laughter -- an unwanted harbinger for his sudden hit-and-run theft of whatever objective he's taken focus of.
Recently, the jungle has once again become a winter wonderland of snowballing advantages. But this time, Nunu's brought along a surprising friend.
The young ice-flinging menace has found an unexpected colleague in the ancient emperor of Shurima's searing sands, Azir. Junglers Jake "Xmithie" Puchero of Counter Logic Gaming and Team 8's Braeden "Porpoise8" Schwark have both recently utilized the Nunu and Azir duo in the North American LCS, and offered to break down the secrets of sandstorms and blizzards.
GREED IS GOOD
The whole point of running Nunu is to take... everything. "[In our Week 3 game against Enemy Esports] we wanted something with Nunu that works very well and synergizes very well, and Azir is just one of those champions that has everything you need to take objectives and defend things," said Porpoise. "Good wave clear, good engage, and good disengage. It's all stuff that's really good with Nunu as well. The objectives game with Nunu is very important, so you want champions that can take objectives with it."
"There's a lot of aspects of Nunu you can use," concurred Xmithie. He noted that Nunu is geared especially towards dominating the early game, thanks to his almost uniquely item-independent gameplay. "For Nunu, you can rush Sightstone without even going for any other item, except for Machete early." With his ability to be effective on very little gold, he's able to bully the jungle of more Enchantment-reliant junglers like Rek'Sai and Sejuani.
From there, it's time for Nunu to meet up with Azir and apply constant and relentless pressure. Says Porpoise, "If you get the chance with Nunu and Azir to rotate to towers, and just siege them for a while -- to chip down the towers and finally take it down -- that's really the comp's goal. So you want to aim to get those outer turrets down as soon as possible, and push up vision, then do the same to the next row."
Unfortunately for Nunu, that control is harder to maintain once the game pushes teams deeper into enemy territory. As a result, Nunu is forced to focus more on neutral objectives as games drag on. Said Porpoise, "You want to control Dragons. You want to get that fourth Dragon to force them to fight you. If you don't have that fourth Dragon or Baron-bait pressure, you can end up waiting around for a long time. So you want to be able to set up that end game with the composition."
Once the game goes late, the combination of Nunu and Azir really comes online. Azir's not just a welcomed component to a Nunu-centric strategy, but a vital one: he is one of the few mid lane champions that interacts well with Nunu's Blood Boil, turning into a magic damage equivalent of the AD carry, tearing champions down in situations where an assassin's burst damage would be rendered inconsequential.
STOPPING THE SNOWBALL
To try and make sure Nunu and Azir don't completely take over a game, it's all about holding down the the Yeti Rider in the early game. According to Xmithie, a good pick-ban phase can neutralize the threat posed by the terrible twosome.
"Either try to get a 2v1 [side lane], so Nunu won't be as effective," advised Xmithie. "And try to get to level six as fast as you can. Or try to predict where Nunu will go. Usually, all Nunus do Gromp without Smite, so you go to their Red Buff. You just counter-jungle them at level two, and stay on the jungler all early game while letting your laners know to push to have an easier laning phase."
It's also a matter of which jungler the opposing team is able to run. A lot of Nunu's strengths, according to Porpoise, were based on the Cinderhulk addition. "The whole idea of Cassiopeia and Azir, why they were picked so much, was because they had such consistent damage on the front line. Since it was a tank meta, you had to shred through the front with your AP carry."
That makes the pick-ban phase extremely important for a team looking to run the champion. But even more important than Azir access is what jungler the enemy team opts for. "There's a couple things you want to watch out for when picking Nunu," said Porpoise. "Early game junglers such as Nidalee -- things that can really bully lanes around and make it hard for you to get out of the laning phase to start getting those objectives."
As situational as the Nunu/Azir strategy might be, Xmithie's happy to pull it out against teams that prioritize Cinderhulk tanks over high-damage junglers. "The play style of the team: you can abuse it if their weaknesses are either early game or 2 vs. 2 or Dragon control. If their weaknesses are in that area, we'll probably pick Nunu."
As the Cinderhulk meta continues its stranglehold over the jungle, expect Nunu to continue to ride with his friends Willump and Azir to victory. Just make sure you don't miss any of the action, right here on Lolesports.