The ocean’s biggest, baddest titan is making a splash across multiple regions -- from China’s LPL to Korea’s LCK to the North American and European LCS.
Nautilus has been no stranger to the competition, emerging as a highly contested support pick in this year’s Spring and Summer Splits. It shouldn’t come across as a surprise, considering the fact that he’s a crowd control machine. And with the right items, he becomes an impenetrable frontline force in the late game.
For example, once Nautilus picks up Righteous Glory, he can speed up his entire team, initiate on a squishy target with his ultimate Depth Charge (R), and peel for his carries as they melt down the opposition.
But he also has a large range on his Dredge Line (Q), which means he doesn’t always require a Righteous Glory or Flash in order to engage. One good Dredge Line coupled with a crowd control chain could mean the difference between life and death for a squishy target.
It only begs the question: why has the titan been trending in the top lane instead of support?
For starters, Nautilus’s kit works as both a top laner and support, which means he can be trouble in the pick and ban phase. With both engage and peel built into his kit, Nautilus can easily become a flex pick that won’t necessarily give away a team composition.
Picking Nautilus as a top laner also opens up another pick for powerful supports like Alistar, who's also been seeing the limelight because he can act as another form of engage and as secondary tank line in a team composition.
A GLOBAL PRESENCE
In fact, having Nautilus in a solo lane, instead of in a duo lane, is simply efficient. It gives him valuable experience and farm so he can acquire earlier items. The quicker he becomes a tank, the more of an impact he can make in team fights.
No, the titan of the sea isn’t quite as powerful as other top laners throughout the laning phase. But buying items like Catalyst the Protector in lieu of a support item like Targon’s Brace will only give him more durability and sustainability through the laning phase. And with Teleport instead of Ignite, Nautilus can transform into a global presence early on in the game.
In KOO Tigers’s game against Longzhu IM in Week 6 of the LCK, Kyung Ho "Smeb" Song demonstrated the power of an early game Nautilus with only two items and a Teleport advantage.
Smeb Teleports down to the bot lane after IM’s mid laner, Tae Il “Frozen” Kim attempts a flank from behind. Not only is he able to effectively zone away IM’s bot lane, he’s able to help Jong In "Pray" Kim and Beom Hyeon "GorillA" Kang secure a kill on IM’s mid laner.
But how does he keep IM’s bot lane away? As a support, he might’ve had a Targon’s Brace and Sightstone. Yet as a top laner, he has a Catalyst the Protector and a Doran’s Ring. Those two items alone give Nautilus enough tankiness and damage output to zone away the opposition.
Catalyst gives Nautilus the sustain to stay in the top lane without giving up farm and experience. He becomes tanky enough to survive against Veigar and Sivir’s burst and the Doran’s Ring gives him enough magic damage to bully the duo away, rendering them helpless in the team fight.
With his chain of crowd control, and with Teleport as a summoner spell in lieu of Ignite, Nautilus has become a global presence to be reckoned with.
ENGAGE AND DISENGAGE
Choosing Nautilus as a top laner also allows a level of synergy with the jungler that is hard to defend against. He synergizes well with almost any champion because of the sheer amount of crowd control built into his kit. And once he picks up a core item, he suddenly transforms into a irritating and unkillable tank.
For example, teams like Vici Gaming have been a fan of the Nautilus/Gragas combination. And although the team has found limited success due to a number of synergy issues plaguing them, it’s hard to ignore the amount of damage and crowd control chaining between the top-jungle duo.
Yes, the play might be overkill. But it’s the kind of play that also shows the potency of having Nautilus and Gragas on the same team. Even though they’re two champions that aren’t known for their damage output, they’re still able to shut down a very slippery Gnar just through their sheer amount of crowd control chaining.
In fact, the Nautilus/Gragas dynamic is beginning to find success in the NA LCS too. Because both champions have a number of abilities to engage and disengage built into their kit, they’re able to turn around a 4v5 team fight in their favor.
In Cloud9’s game against Team Liquid in Week 6, Alex "Xpecial" Chu is killed after a failed engage in a tower dive. Jae Hun "Fenix" Kim is subsequently ulted by Fizz, and Team Liquid understands that if they’re caught out by Cloud9, they’ll crumble.
So, Christian "IWillDominate" on Gragas throws down an Explosive Cask (R) in order to disengage while Diego "Quas" Ruiz on Nautilus uses Riptide (E) to peel for his carries.
But suddenly, there’s an opening for them. Because of the nature of Nautilus and Gragas' kit, Team Liquid is able to turn around reengage in another team fight. IWillDominate body slams right back into Cloud9 while Quas uses Depth Charge (R) to lock down Fizz on the backline.
With the amount of resources put on Quas' Nautilus, he’s able to sustain himself through the entire fight, even after initially disengaging. What follows is a spectacular tornado and Last Breath (R) combination by Fenix’s Yasuo to win the entire team fight.
THE IMPENETRABLE NAUTILUS
So why not pick Maokai? Why not pick another tanky top laner? After all, champions like the Twisted Treant have more sustain and damage output in the laning phase than the Titan of the Depths.
But in a meta that values tankiness, neither Maokai nor Nautilus are truly picked for their damage output or sustain after the laning phase. The two champions are picked in order to stand in the front line, soak up damage and engage on enemy carries while peeling for their own teammates.
Other top laners like Gnar, Irelia, and Maokai might provide an easier laning phase. But the tradeoff is the sheer amount of crowd control chaining and synergy with other champions that Nautilus has.
Nautilus provides lockdown on carries and becomes integral in his contribution in late game as an impenetrable fortress.
As Joshua "Jatt" Leesman once said, "The good thing about Nautilus top is that you have Nautilus on your team."