Nautilus Mid Guide | From Early to Late Game

A rather unorthodox champion for mid lane, Nautilus started getting popularity in 2018 after streamers such as Shiptur started playing him. His status as a legit cheese pick was further cemented by Doinb during the World Champions in 2019 where he showed the world his true power. If you are wondering how to play Nautilus mid like Doinb himself, you are at the right place!

What makes him a good mid laner?

League of Legends meta is always evolving. And we can say mid lane usually takes the spotlight for new and unconventional picks. From being dominated by mages, followed by assassins, pretty much every class can be played on it nowadays. After Galio’s rework and return of tanks to mid lane, players started exploring other similar champions that could replace him. One of them was Nautilus.

Nautilus’s Riptide (E) allows him to go toe to toe with the majority of laners and is ultimately what makes him playable on mid. Having a relatively low cooldown and cheap mana cost, he can’t get pushed in easily and can often match other champions. This is a trend that we see with many champions, if they don’t have a proper wave clear, they usually don’t last long in this lane.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Being beefier than most other champions, it’s quite hard to poke Nautilus out of the lane. His Dredge Line (Q) combined with his passive (root) gives him one of the best gank setups in the game. After unlocking his ultimate Depth Charge on level 6 it gets even stronger. AOE (area of damage) part of his Titan’s Wrath (W) combined with Riptide gives him good enough of wave clear to match others.

If he gets ahead, don’t expect to deal damage or contest a wave versus him. He’s that strong once he gets going! Nautilus has extremely high base damage on his spells, so even if you go full tank you can still expect to one shot enemy squishes.

His greatest weakness is falling behind. Once you get a lead over him, he becomes nonexistent except for the threat of picking off your teammates. Furthermore, if the enemy plays decently in lane, he won’t have many chances of hooking them and dealing damage to exert pressure on the enemy team.

Following that, I have to mention he falls off as the game goes on. Nautilus is strongest in the mid game, and weakest in the late game. He doesn’t benefit as much from buying damage stats as for example Cassiopeia, and by building tank his one-shot potential stops existing after a certain point. To maximize the number of games you will win as Nautilus mid, you should look to end every game before the 30th minute.

Also read: What is Demotion Shield Expiring

Early Game

There are two opening items you can go for, Doran’s Ring or Corruption Potion. Unless you are playing against a poking champion such as Lucian, or Cassiopeia you should always opt for Doran’s Ring. The reason why is because you’re naturally tanky enough, especially with your W, but lack some AP to deal more damage with your E.

Nautilus is strong in early game skirmishes, so try to contest scuttle crab on level 3 with your jungler. Also, look for any action that might be happening around the mid lane, for example, jungle invades. You’re not going to be too strong in lane, but the real difference is going to be in 2v2’s.

By combining your E + W you can get a free recall on level 4. On your first back get Dark Seal, potions, and a control ward. After you hit 6 try to go for roams, or call your jungler to get a free kill on mid. Remember that Nautilus has an invisible clock over him at all times. At a certain point (usually around 25th+ minute) you are not going to be able to 1v9 anymore. So, try to finish your games before that. Otherwise, you will have to depend on your teammates to do damage.

Mid Game

This is a part of the game when Nautilus is at his strongest. It commonly starts after the first tower has been taken, and you complete your first item. In our guide How to get better at League we put a lot of emphasis on farming. This is not necessarily the case with Nautilus. Sitting in the side lane and scaling is not going to win you too many games. Rather, you should stick with your team and try to force team fights with your Dredge Line and Depth’s Charge.

Even if you are behind, don’t be scared to start a fight if you see a numbers advantage (more teammates at the same place compared to enemies). A combination of your spells will surely mean you can eliminate one of the enemies in an instant.

On the other hand, if you are ahead use your advantage to snowball the game. Even though Nautilus is primarily a support, a fed mid Nautilus at this stage of the game is a carry. If you are still learning how to play him, try to force as many fights as you can, to learn his damage output and limits. Preferably, do this in normal games so you don’t put a strain on your MMR and drop ranks.

Late Game

If you didn’t manage to destroy the enemy nexus in time, you reached the late game. Sadly, you’re not in for a fun time. As others start building more and more items your champion starts falling off. As such, your main job is not dealing damage anymore, but rather being a CC bot. On top of that, you will have to tank as much damage as you can so your carries can win the fights for you.

This can be an extremely frustrating part of the game if your ADC is not doing well. But, don’t get emotional and stay calm. Try to pick off enemy carries and win that way. Ultimately, at this stage, you are not able to win on your own anymore so flaming your teammates will do you more harm than good.

Also read: Offline Mode in League of Legends


Standard Nautilus Mid Runes

Standard Nautilus Runes


Having to always be in the face of an enemy to deal damage, Nautilus is always under a threat. Having Aftershock nullifies that. Once you CC an enemy you will get temporary resistances to help you survive enemy burst. It is a key component of our runes and locks us to the Resolve tree automatically. 

Shield Bash

Demolish and Font of Life are rather underwhelming, while Shield of Bash will give you some extra damage every time you activate your W.

Second Wind / Bone Plating

If you are playing versus a champion with a lot of poke go for Second Wind. It will help you sustain some of the damage you are receiving. On the other hand, if the enemy is playing an all-in champion, Bone Plating is a better option. 


Almost every champion in the game at this point has some form of CC in their kit. If you are unable to move, you are unable to deal damage. And we don’t want that. Unflinching will provide you with some extra tenacity. If enemies don’t have any CC, then change it to Overgrowth for some extra HP. 

Minion Dematerializer

Not being able to build a lot of HP can sometimes hinder Nautilus’s wave clear. Use 1 minion dematerializer on each minion type to boost your damage to them.

Cosmic Insight

It’s primarily taken to help with long summoner spell cooldowns, especially Teleport.


Always get Attack Speed rune! It will help you cancel your AA with the W more consistently. When it comes to Armor and Magic Resistance, adapt it based on who you are facing.

Also read: Clash Tiers Explained

Full AP Nautilus Mid Runes

Do note though that this page is going to fall off even harder than the standard one.

Full AP Nautilus Runes


As Nautilus’s combo is pretty fast, Electrocute is easy to proc. It will also provide you with some extra damage.

Cheap Shot

You can proc it both after your Q, or after an auto attack. Make sure to cancel the AA animation with your W though!

Eyeball Collection

As you are getting fed all over the map, it’s going to provide you with some extra adaptive force (AP).

Ultimate Hunter

After level 6, everything revolves around your Ultimate. Having it up as much as possible is crucial.

Summoner Spells

When it comes to summoner spells, there are only two choices you can go for. They’re Ignite and Teleport.


By choosing ignite, you are going to have more kill potential in the lane and in skirmishes close to you. It is also helpful in late game when your damage starts falling off and you need that extra few ticks to kill an enemy. Furthermore, it counters healing, and there’s a ton of it in Season 11!


Opting for Teleport is a relatively safer route. If you make a miss-play you can easily return to the lane with minimal losses. On top of that, it gives you the ability to join a fight anywhere on the map. Although once the mid game hits, you won’t have many options to use it since you’ll primarily be close to your team.

If you are just starting to learn Nautilus, I recommend going for Ignite. Learning what your champion is good at and where his limits are as fast as possible is crucial in the modern-day League. If you are not playing your champion to his fullest potential, you aren’t playing him properly.


Standard Nautilus Mid Build

Nautilus Mid Build


Depending on what opponent you are facing, build either Mercury’s Treads or Plated Steelcaps.

Shurelya’s Battlesong

A perfect starting item for Nautilus. It gives you all of the relevant stats, as well as ability to catch up to enemies with its active “Inspire”. Another good option is Turbo Chemtank, but it will mean you do less damage from the get-go. I personally prefer going for Shurelya.

Zhonya’s Hourglass

Once you go into the enemy team there’s no going back. But you can buy yourself some time so your team can catch up with Zhonya. It is relatively cheap and a must item on Naut.

These two items are mandatory regardless of the build we’re going for after. A more standard Nautilus build makes him tankier, which scales better. Depending on the stats you need after that, you can go for some of the situational items.


Thornmail is great verus AD heavy teams with a lot of healing.

Knight’s Vow

If your ad carry is strong, getting Knight’s Vow for him could make a difference between winning and losing a team-fight.

Force of Nature

Build this when you are against strong mages. It will help you survive them, but also stick to them easier due to the good Movement Speed stats it gives.

Gargoyle Stoneplate

Going for Gargoyle is not recommended unless you are an only engage option. If that’s the case it will help you survive for longer. Use it when there are multiple enemies around you. Also, use it first, then when it runs out or you are close to dying use Zhonya’s Hourglass. This should give you enough time to get your W back from cooldown.

Full AP Nautilus Mid Build

Full AP Nautilus Build

Full AP build is much more expensive than the standard one. If you are behind, you should not go for it under any circumstances. But if you are ahead, it’s ton of fun!

Get an early Dark Seal. If you manage to get it to 10 stacks, upgrade it to Mejai’s Soulstealer after you finish boots and Shurelya.

Your third item has to be Rabadon’s Deathcap. As it is quite pricey, it takes a lot of time to gather gold for it. This build’s strongest point is after you finish. After that you can go for situational items.

Void Staff

Good only against Magic Resistance (MR) heavy enemies.

Cosmic Drive

Gives you some extra AP and Movement Speed to catch up to enemies easier.


Best combo for maximum damage output is as follows:

 Q > AA > W (cancels auto attack animation) > AA > E > R > AA


If you use Dredge Line (Q) on the wall, it’s cooldown and mana will get refunded by 50%.

Using Dredge Line can interrupt spells such as Blitzcrank’s hook.

Your R will knock up enemies in front of the target it is traveling to.

You can use your E while you are getting pulled using your Q. While escaping, use your Q on the wall and then immediately press E to slow enemies.

Final Words

Nautilus might look like a boring and shallow champion at first, but it takes a lot of skill to master him. It sticks out from other mid lane champions due to his unique nature which can prove challenging to many people trying to play him. I hope this guide helped you get closer to him and that you’ll have success with him in your games!