Nidalee Build Guide by Embracing

League of Legends Build Guide Author Embracing

A Jungle Nidalee Guide

Embracing Last updated on February 23, 2017
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R


Natural Talent
Battering Blows
Piercing Thoughts

Ferocity: 12


Cunning: 18

Runic Armor
Veteran's Scars
Legendary Guardian

Resolve: 0

Threats to Nidalee with this build

Show all
Threat Champion Notes
Warwick Really slow and weak early clear. He will be sustained but he won't do much until 6. This allows you to take full control over the map easily. Make sure to maintain pressure vs him, or if he gets going he will be able to out-sustain you later on / pick you off easily with his ultimate.

1. Introduction
2. Pros & Cons
3. Spells
4. Runes
5. Masteries
6. Items
7. Abilities
8. Advanced Mechanics
9. Gameplay
10. Conclusion

Hello, I'm Embracing, a Nidalee enthusiast. I was once Diamond II in Season 3 in the 2nd Chinese server (祖安), and I took a long break in between, playing normals with friends. Currently, I'm playing in NA and have been hovering between Diamond V and Diamond III. I was the starting mid laner for the Division 1 Penn State Collegiate League of Legends Team from '15 to '16 and have competed in numerous tournaments such as the Collegiate Star League, where we finished in the RO16, as well as placing first in the PSU LAN, an intercollegiate tournament where teams from other universities came to compete. Currently I am the manager and coach of Penn State Esports, the Division 1 Penn State League of Legends team, and also the head of the League of Legends Division at the Penn State Esports Club.

Back in the late season 3 when assassins were prevalent in mid lane, I found myself really enjoying AP Nidalee mid, before she was reworked. I climbed from D5 to high D2 by spamming a lot of Nidalee. Little did I know Nidalee would soon become FOTM in season 4, where she was then a pick/ban priority and eventually reworked. She then had her phase of being OP as a bruiser and eventually nerfed and unseen for a while. She became extremely broken after buffs to her passive and ended needing nerfs patch after patch. After the changes to the season 7 jungle, however, she currently stands as a decent carry jungler. Although she is still very potent in the right hands, she just needs extra work put into to be effective.

I created this guide in attempt to provide an accurate way to playing Nidalee optimally. Hopefully this guide can help or teach you a few things about Nidalee that you can apply to your gameplay.

|| + Strong early power
+ Very mobile
+ Extremely fast clears
+ High burst skill rotation
+ Reliable gap-close with passive

|| Nidalee is a snowbally carry jungler with extremely fast clears and great ganks. She has decent early burst, being able to bully a lot of weak junglers early on, and also has the ability to jump on enemies from long range due to her Javelin Toss. Her Pounce also grants her great mobility, and her overload of spells allows her to powerclear really fast. This allows her to pressure lanes and rotate around the map really quickly early on.

|| - Useless if behind
- Lack of crowd control
- Costly to siege w/o blue buff
- Reliant on spear landing
- Weak in teamfights

|| Although Nidalee is a powerhouse in the early, she does have substantial weaknesses. She has no hard CC and has difficulty getting in melee range consistently as a squishy. She also scales poorly and becomes useless if behind, making her extremely reliant on getting leads in the early ~ mid game.

|| FLASH || Core for escaping, diving, etc. Flash + Pounce can be brutal for getting the gapclose and one-shotting enemies and Flash + Javelin Toss can finish someone off / get a gapclose off. ||

|| SMITE || For jungling. Buff control and objective control is essential to a jungler. You need Smite for the experience bonuses and ability to secure objectives such as buffs, dragons and barons when contesting. ||

Nidalee's jungle setup is very similar to other AP junglers but has a few slight differences.

|||||| ||
  • 9 x Greater Mark of Attack Damage
  • 9 x Greater Seal of Scaling Health
  • 6 x Greater Glyph of Scaling Cooldown Reduction / 3 x Ability Power
  • 2 x Greater Quintessence of Ability Power / 1 x Armor

|||Greater Mark of Attack Damage
Since nerfs to Pounce resets, Nidalee's clear has become extremely reliant on auto-attacking through her attack speed steroid heal and kiting. AD marks help ensure a safe and consistent clear. Greater Mark of Magic Penetration is also a fine option - it will increase your damage done to enemy champions but will make your clear less sustained and slower.

|||Greater Seal of Scaling Health / Armor
With how quick, healthy, and strong Nidalee's initial clears are, you can afford to run less armor and still clear efficiently, also giving you a stronger mid game with the extra HP. If you're still learning the early jungle clear, however, run Greater Seal of Armor.

|||Greater Glyph of Scaling Cooldown Reduction / Ability Power
Helps in lowering overall damage rotation later on, as CDR is a very useful stat for mages like Nidalee. Since changes to CDR in items, typically running a spread of 6 Scaling CDR and 3 AP is ideal so you don't overcap CDR. Greater Glyph of Ability Power is also a great option for more early burst, and is ideal for learning the early jungle clear.

|||Greater Quintessence of Ability Power / Armor
AP glyphs help your early burst a lot. The 1 armor quint helps alleviate for 4~5 armor seals, and given how efficient health/lvl seals are, trading off 1 AP quint for 4~5 hp/lvl seals is worth.

As a bursty AP jungler, you'll be wanting to run the following masteries:

Item Sequence

Hunter's Talisman

Refillable Potion

The standard jungle start for Nidalee. Hunter's Talisman is an amazing source of mana regen that allows you to effectively clear a lot more efficiently due to great sustain. Nidalee can clear extremely efficiently, leaving her a lot less affected by having one less potion early on, and Hunter's Potion is useful for maintaining sustain in the jungle to allow quick clears and more pressure early on.

Item Sequence

Ionian Boots of Lucidity

Skirmisher's Sabre - Runic Echoes

Stalker's Blade - Runic Echoes

Rylai's Crystal Scepter

Early Core Nidalee excels best with Ionian Boots of Lucidity, a Enchantment: Runic Echoes jungle item, and Rylai's Crystal Scepter for great early CDR, good damage, and decent bulk going into mid game.
|| BOOTS OF LUCIDITY || Extremely cost-efficient choice of boots. Nidalee doesn't fit well with building big cdr items as a jungler as you want to maximize damage potential, so buying these helps alleviate for a big portion of CDR over the small magic penetration alternatives in Sorcerer's Shoes, which you aim to build in big items anyways. ||

|| SKIRMISH SABRE || This is extremely useful on Nidalee as they synergize with her ability to play extremely aggressive in the enemy jungle to force vision or skirmishes. These allow for more potent duels / fights. Get this vs strong dueling junglers or tanks. ||

|| STALKER'S BLADE || On the other hand, Stalker's Blade synergizes with Nidalee's ability to gank efficiently. The active is extremely useful in ganks and chasing, and helps you guarantee you land your Javelin Toss on a target. ||

|| RYLAI'S CRYSTAL SCEPTER || Gives a good balance between bulkiness and damage, having a great component spike through Needlessly Large Rod. The slow from the passive also makes up for Nidalee's inherent lack of CC. ||

Item Sequence

Lich Bane

Zhonya's Hourglass

Void Staff

Abyssal Scepter

Rabadon's Deathcap

Next you'll want to buy items that give you more damage to amplify your strengths. Item spike timing becomes more than important given how you have a lower income as a jungler compared to laners. As a result Zhonya's Hourglass and Void Staff become core items, and bulkier AP items like Rylai's Crystal Scepter and Abyssal Scepter become more cost-efficient options.
|| LICH BANE || Gives a bunch of extra burst and let's you one shot enemies mid game. Helps you snowball a lot better w/ the extra damage. ||

|| ZHONYA'S HOUR GLASS || Zhonya's Hourglass is great on jungle Nidalee for being able to go in on picks and surviving. The active allows you to mitigate a lot of potential damage and it also gives you a slight bit of armor as well to help versus AD. Necessary when you need to one shot enemy targets but cannot do so safely. ||

|| VOID STAFF || This will always be cost-efficient for its cheap price, and its value doesn't change as a jungler. This enables you to do so much more damage versus any bit of MR the enemies have. Typically bought later when enemies start buying more MR. ||

|| ABYSSAL SCEPTER || A direct counter to magic damage burst that also increases your damage potential against low magic resistance targets. Typically an early purchase (immediately before or after Rylai / RoA) if against multiple heavy AP damage sources but can be bought as a later purchase as well if needing damage as well as some bulk. ||

|| RABADON'S DEATHCAP || Rabadon's Deathcap gives you the most straight up boost to your damage output. Its massive cost takes too long to get unless you're snowballing / fed / farmed, so most of the time getting other items is much faster and more efficient. Get only if rich. ||

Item Sequence

Rod of Ages

Athene's Unholy Grail

Iceborn Gauntlet

Guardian Angel

There aren't many other items to really consider on Nidalee because you want to normally go glass cannon and maximize her damage output, but sometimes you are forced into going a different build to be effective.
|| ROD OF AGES || A replacement for Rylai - cost efficient for scaling into mid game with enough HP and mana, allowing you to transition into damage items afterwards. Takes some time to scale up, giving you less raw stats than Rylai at purchase and also has weaker components compared to Rylai. ||
|| ATHENE'S UNHOLY GRAIL || When you are against a team composition where you cannot find windows of oppotunity to engage in and you want to play backline defensive, Athene's Unholy Grail is a great option for sustaining in sieges. ||

|| ICEBORN GAUNTLET || A great early option versus heavy AD teams. Slow from the passive is great utility. Make sure to not get Lich Bane if you get this. ||

|| GUARDIAN ANGEL || A great cheap defensive option. Typically bought mid~late game to allow you to play more aggressive in teamfights, but is really only ideal if you need the defensive stats. ||

|| Prowl: Moving through brush increases Nidalee's movement speed by 10% for 2 seconds, which increases to 30% if she is moving toward a visible enemy champion within 5500-range.
Hunt: Hitting enemy champions and neutral monsters with Javelin Toss or Bushwhack will mark them as Hunted for 4 seconds, revealing them. Neutral monsters are also rooted for 2 seconds. While moving toward Hunted, Nidalee gains Prowl's bonus movement speed and ignores unit collision. Additionally, Nidalee's first use of Takedown and Pounce against Hunted will have an empowered effect.
|| //

The new mechanic for the reworked Nidalee. While the bush movement speed buff remains the same as a useful tool for chasing and escaping through the jungle, the new mark is what lets Nidalee assassinate people a lot easier and clear a lot better in the jungle. Essentially, the biggest bonus you get is the reset for your W, which lets you reposition really easily and run around the map faster.

|| Active: Nidalee hurls her javelin forward in a line, dealing magic damage to the first enemy it hits. After having traveled 525 units, the javelin's damage will be increased by 2% per 7.75 units traveled, capping at 200% bonus damage (300% total damage) after traveling 1300 units.
Active: Nidalee's next basic attack gains 75-range (200 total range) and is modified to deal magic damage.The damage is increased by 1.5% for every 1% of the target's missing health, for a maximum of 150% bonus damage (250% total damage).
|| Q

Nidalee's bread and butter - the human active is the oh-so-dreaded spear that chunks off a ton of hp. This is your only source of ranged damage and is crucial to following up with your other abilities. In stand-offs you'll want to stand in flank angles where enemies can't see or engage on you and chunk away.

Flank Angle Example

You should try to vary your position and timing so they don't get used to a certain pattern. To ensure you land spears when in chases or skirmishes you need to hold onto your spear until you are able to force enemies into a choke point where they either cannot dodge your spear, or cannot dodge your spear without sacrificing other advantages, such as positioning, burning spells, letting your teammates catch up, etc. The spear width is really small, so most of the time you will have to try to predict where enemies will end up. Noting your own and your teammates positioning while standing in flank angles is extremely important because if enemies get an initiate while you're in a flank angle you probably will be fighting a disadvantageous teamfight.

The cougar active on the other hand is a VERY strong execute that is basically why Nidalee is an assassin now. Takedown, also being an autoattack reset, allows you to CS under tower relatively easy, as well. This spell is great to secure objectives with, especially if coupled with Smite.

|| Active: Nidalee lays a trap at a target location that arms after a very brief delay. When sprung by an enemy unit, they will take magic damage plus a percentage of their current health over 4 seconds (max. damage 150 vs. monsters). Traps last for 2 minutes.
Active: Nidalee lunges a fixed 375 units in the direction of the cursor, dealing magic damage to enemies within a 75-radius area around her landing point. Killing a unit will reduce Pounce's current cooldown to 1.5 second if it's currently higher.
|| W

This aspect of Nidalee's kit is extremely underrated, as most people overlook how important information can be. The human form active is what helps you scout and escape with. You can use them in choke points or in bushes to give you information over certain portions of the map. Although this spell doesn't pack as much of a punch as it did pre-rework, you definitely should use the information to your advantage, such as setting up different angles when you know the enemy is in a different location. Bushwhack is also a crucial component of Nidalee's initial early jungle clear, as traps help reset the cooldown on your Pounce.

The cougar form active is another key aspect of Nidalee's kit. This ability combined with your passive is what allows you to be extremely mobile, especially in roams and chasing. The extended range is key to killing enemies that you have a mark on.

|| Active: Nidalee evokes the spirit of the cougar, healing a target allied champion or herself and granting them bonus attack speed for 7 seconds.
Active: Nidalee claws at enemies in a 180-degree cone in the direction of the cursor, dealing magic damage to all enemies hit.
|| E

The human form active is the heal that is essential to a safe siege and sustained clear. Early on you'll primarily want to use this to heal yourself or allies in ganks and skirmishes when necessary. With blue buff, you can use spam this ability along with your spear in standoffs to force the enemy back, so you can secure objectives, vision control, and map pressure. If you don't have blue buffs you'll have to be more conservative with its usage.

The cougar form active is a short range AOE spell. This ability helps to clear waves when you want to shove, and it's an important damage source when you jump in on enemies. It's not as impactful as the other spells, but it's a great source of damage regardless.

|| Active: Nidalee transforms herself into a cougar, gaining a new set of abilities and melee attacks (125 range).
Active: Nidalee transforms back into her human form.
|| R

This ability allows you to transform between human and cougar form, and helps greatly when you level it up, boosting your other spells. One thing to note about this spell is that when an enemy is marked by Prowl, the cooldown of this spell resets, meaning that you can immediately transform into cougar and jump in if the opportunity approaches.

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

You'll want to max your Q first, as it's your only ranged damage throughout the game and provides the most damage. Then you'll want to max your E, which helps you in sustaining sieges, also giving you more waveclear and damage with your swipe. Lastly, max your W, as the level bonuses from W are the least useful compared to your other spells.

Nidalee, being a champion with a very high mechanical skill ceiling, has numerous tricks and techniques for higher efficiency in damage, jungle clear speed, and overall movement. Here's a video that illustrates all the details listed below.

Animation Cancels:
Nidalee, like Riven, has a few animation cancels you can utilize to increase the speed of your skill rotation and overall movement.

Q into W is the most useful animation cancel for Nidalee. The gist of the technique is that Takedown has a spin around animation that takes place after the damage is applied to a target which you can cancel by immediately uing Pounce when the damage is applied. The result is a much faster skill rotation than compared to a normal Q-->W where you wait out the animation. This is very useful for general speed in waveclear / mobility / jungling.

E into W is a much more subtle animation cancel. Using Pounce immediately after Swipe will cancel a fraction of Swipe's animation. This doesn't have a lot of useful but is overall for increasing your jungle clear speed.

Utilizing Pounce:
One aspect of Pounce is its cooldown reset to 1.5 seconds when killing a unit. The cooldown reset applies the instant your ability kills the unit, so considering travel time of particles, we can pull off some tricks with Pounce.

Utilizing the animation cancelling technique just described above on a low health target, you can essentially fadeaway hop on a target that you can kill to reset your Pounce cooldown. This technique is very useful for speeding up your clear speed after you're done with a camp.

Using Javelin Toss that will kill a low health target and then immediately changing form to use Pounce will reset Pounce's cooldown. This is very useful in chasing or escaping when you have a minion wave nearby or weak camps like Raptors or Wolves that you can kill with a Javelin Toss.

This is very similar to Javelin Toss -> Pounce, but instead of using your Q you'll use smite to reset your cooldown. Use Smite to kill a target the moment your Pounce animation starts or just Smite while the animation is going through, although your cooldown reset will be slightly delayed. This is useful for chasing and ganking lanes as jungle Nidalee.

Autoattacking a target, killing it, and then immediately changing form to pounce in a direction will reset Pounce's cooldown. Do note that this is the hardest technique to pull off correctly and doesn't have that many benefits, but it does help you understand your Pounce cooldown timing a lot better. That being said the technique can be used to get around the map quicker as jungler.

First of all, let's clarify what role Nidalee fulfills in a team composition. Nidalee is an extremely powerful jungler in the early to mid game stages, where she has extremely fast clears and high mobility. This allows her to outmaneuver the enemy jungler and create leads through pressuring lanes. She can outpace the enemy jungler through clearing faster than the enemy jungler, bullying the enemy jungler by being stronger, and ganking harder and faster than the enemy jungler. Her focus and win condition in the game is to create advantages using her said strengths to force favorable skirmishes and snowball the game.

Power Spikes:
That being said, when exactly are Nidalee's power spikes during the game? Although Nidalee's damage, like most champions', scales upwards the longer the game goes due to items, as an assassin she has great difficulty finding picks the later the game drags out due to enemies grouping.

|| Early on, Nidalee has very decent early levels where she can out-duel most weaker junglers, but eventually takes a slight dip around level six as she doesn't gain any direct combat skills compared to most other champions who do. This may seem misleading to many, but in terms of direct strengths, Nidalee needs one or two items before becoming her strongest. Some may think that since she is strong early, she probably spikes hardest in the early game, but this is incorrect. She doesn't spike hardest in the early game - her advantages are created through pressuring the map harder and faster through her Pounce, which doesn't directly correlate to her own spikes.

Initial Clear:

Red Team

Red Team
Blue Team

Red Team

In the season 7 jungle, starting at blue buff is the most consistent start, since you can clear gromp then go for a 5 camp clear, also avoiding the powerful raptor camp which should be avoided before having both Pounce and Swipe to not lose too much hp from the small raptors.

|| Start with your Javelin and fire a max range spear to Blue before auoting it. If your team isn't giving you a good leash you can adjust your path to do less camps and Smite blue. At level two, throw a Q and place a trap beneath the camp before you start using Takedown and Pounce. Kite the camp to avoid some damage when abilities are on CD and abuse the Hunter's Talisman passive to heal. Once your cougar form abilities go on long cd's, change to human form and rinse repeat. Make sure not to Pounce unless you get a reset.

After level three, you want to Javelin Toss, Bushwhack where the camps will travel after aggro'd, change form, Takedown + Pounce, Swipe and autos, change form, auto-attack and kite, and then rinse repeat. The reasoning for using Takedown early is that it will come off cooldown before you finish the camp so you can use it multiple times at one camp. ||

Of course this is only a standard route I would advise players to master before branching out to other starting paths. A lot about choosing your initial jungle path is dependent on where you want to end up after your initial clear and what you want to do after you clear. My boy Joxuu wrote a mini guide on jungle pathing here if you're interested. Although the specific paths are outdated the underlying logic behind the text is still relatively sound.

An example of an alternate start is an early bot / top (blue / red side) lvl 3 gank, where you do a small raptor, do red and then krugs, and then gank bot. To do this, you start by throwing a max range spear on a small raptor, auto it a few times until it dies, and then move on to red, letting raptors reset, and then do krugs. This will give you just enough exp to get level three quite early on.

Early Game:
After your initial clear, you should be relatively healthy enough to start gaining map control. Start healing up with Primal Surge and utilizing your early game strengths to prepare yourself for ganking lanes that are gankable / getting scuttles / pressuring the enemy jungler.

As a jungler, controlling or having information on the enemy jungler is crucial. Being a better jungler means that you are able to predict the enemy jungler's movements, limit his presence on the map, gank gankable lanes that are either 1) not likely to be counterganked or 2) likely to be counterganked but your 2v2 / 3v3 are better than theirs, and counterjungle when he is on the other side of the map and you are unable to act. Counterganking is a crucial part of being a good jungler as it completely shuts down the enemy jungler's chances to gain advantages for their team, while gaining an advantage for your team as well, only if your skirmish is stronger.

|| To successfully pull off Nidalee's early game you must first understand her strengths compared to other junglers. Nidalee has advantages in early mobility, meaning she's strong in ganking, counter-ganking, and counterjungling, and also because she has a long range initiate with her spear (though hard to land), and a lot of burst in her spell rotations. You can play aggressive to gain information and be active in pressuring and rotating the map. You can gank a lane, steal a camp, and gank another lane all within two minutes. Constantly being active in the game is what enables good Nidalee players to carry. The ideal goal is to gain a sizable lead through fast clears, ganking lanes, and pressuring the enemy jungler into mid game, where you then can start pressuring objectives with an advantage. It's extremely easy to setup vision with Nidalee because of her mobility, as well, and establishing vision to gain information helps even more to snowball a game.

To determine an early game plan, identify the team composition and lane matchups. Look at which lanes have CC to help you guarantee successful ganks and understand how lane matchups will go. For example, if your bot lane matchup is Ezreal Alistar versus Caitlyn Nami, you can predict that they will get shoved in early levels. Alistar also has extremely potent CC / engage with a Flash Pulverize, which can set you up for a successful gank, guaranteeing summoners burnt on the enemy laners and potentially kills depending on how mispositioned the enemies are. However, it is crucial that you do not just assume that lane matchups will go one way or the other. As a jungler scanning the lanes while clearing is paramount to identifying your next course of action. Your Alistar Ezreal lane might all in level-two and force the enemy bot lane to back, and if you end up around bot lane at that time, you will have nothing to gain, especially if your top lane Maokai could have set you up for a gank by being shoved in if you were around. If you do not help laners that are enabling you to gank, you are missing out on potential windows to snowball the game and are costing your laners their lanes if they're going out of their way to set you up. That being said, as a jungler you don't want to be wasting time or taking risks in forcing ganks. Make sure that you are efficiently using your time. Prioritize ganking over farming if there are gank windows to take. If you waste time ganking lanes that are not gankable and the enemy jungler is competent you will be counterjungled or outleveled the longer the game goes, which is especially brutal on Nidalee, who is reliant on staying stronger than the enemies to be effective, or you can just simply get counterganked by staying in enemy vision too long and lose a fight and consequently a lot of map pressure. Be smart and active across the map. ||

Late Game:
Later on, as teamfights and grouping starts to happen, you won't be able to find opportunities to hunt people down as much anymore because enemies will be tankier and grouped. Nidalee has a very hard time in flat out teamfights - she cannot deal with tanks and can only resort to healing and spearing if fights are forced with you in a wrong position. The ideal situation is to land a spear on an enemy carry and dive them, letting the rest of your team deal with the cleanup. What this means is that you'll want to help establish vision control and try to poke down enemies you see on the map. Wait and seek for opportunities to apply pressure and if the enemies get split or you manage to poke them down, call for your team to engage. You'll be forced onto a much more passive position, so just try to find flank angles where you have vision control over and spear away. You'll want to avoid fights and try to get as much poke damage down as possible before actually engaging the enemy, so make sure to stand in spots that aren't warded (via pinks or scanners or standing in spots enemies cannot reach), and try to hit the carries.

I hope this guide taught you a few things about Nidalee you didn't know before! If you have any questions or comments feel free to drop them in the comment section below or PM me about them. Nidalee is a very fun champion that many others cannot compare with, and I hope more people come to see her merits.

Special Thanks
I'd like to thank MissMaw for all the sweet coding, and members of the MobaFire Chat for the critique.

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