Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Popular belief, in the current meta game, suggests that Nidalee cannot perform as an AD carry or AD assist. While there are many ideas and suggestions that prove this to be true (as opposed to her more popular AP support version), I have found that given the correct gear and precision with her, you can be just as successful as any carry while not relying on the usual Flash/Ghost as getaways, because we all know how fun it is to try and catch a good Nidalee player.
This build is the current AD Carry build I use for Nidalee. I came up with this idea by accident. I wanted to see how stacking crit damage runes would work for someone who doesn't normally do a lot of critical or physical damage in general. After viewing an old Shaco build that involved nothing but crit damage runes, I decided to give it a shot. After some games I noticed that her damage output was exceptionally high with these runes and given the correct play, could very well change the tide of battle in my team's favor at any given time (assuming correct farm and smart play).
So I bring to you all: Crit Nids.
"Silly Nidalee, AP is for casters."
Pros & Cons
-Extremely high late-game damage.
-Great carry potential mid and late game.
-Fear factor with large criticals taking over half a character's health. (Having "fear factor" allows you to do things, such as harass 2-3 people with no backup, that would otherwise be considered a mistake. People fear those who can kill in 2-4 shots.)
-High burst damage to counter life steal and jousters, such as another Nidalee or an Akali.
-Amazing turret pushing potential with Sheen and high auto-attack damage.
-Takes full advantage of everything Nidalee was originally designed to do in the first place (besides carry). She's not a mage, she's a support physical DPS.
-Low early-game damage.
-Very little early-game survivability with a weak heal and small mana pool.
-Not very effective before Infinity Edge.
-Susceptible to ganks due to weak heal and lack of escape summoners.
-Extremely squishy, despite having 2 survivability items. (Numbers will fool most people, so having 150+ in both resists can make people think you're "tanky".)
Yes, my choice of runes is semi-weird to some, but honestly, runes are more of a preference than anything. Therefore, I choose these runes in preference to my play-style with Nidalee. This is in no way telling you that these runes will always be successful.
Marks: Armor Penetration.
Why: Early to mid-game, these are essential in taking out those dps-hungry carries that refuse to get survivability even when they are being dominated.
Why not crit damage: Armor penetration has a lot more success in being consistent and crit damage runes only help if you hit with a critical.
Seals: Critical Damage.
Why: Enough of these will make your opponents call you a hacker when you crit them for 600 at level 13 :). Overall, they exponentially increase Nidalee's damage output when coupled with Infinity Edge and some extra critical items (in this build's case, Trinity Force).
Glyphs: Magic Resist Per Level (MR/lvl)
Why: As a character who tends to stick out as a carry, when dealing significant amounts of damage (and an annoyance to people that can't catch her), you get focused... a lot. These runes give just enough early game resistance to keep up with the constant magic damage harass and scale into late game to provide about half the MR that's required to not become an exploding pile of magical energy. These runes are specifically a personal preference, but I would suggest them for any carry of any sort.
Why not crit damage: Some survivability is key to dealing damage. You can't deal damage when you're not alive, now can you? (Karthus, Kog Maw, Teemo shrooms, and any form of trap not included)
(Note: Many people would suggest cooldown reduction to get your heal up faster. While good for her, it isn't too necessary. At rank 5, the heal has the duration of it's own cooldown.)
Quintessences: Critical Damage.
Why: Normally, I prefer to use the standard flat health quints, but in this case, the extra critical damage they provide is extremely significant to her late-game damage output. The only trade off is that I have to play smarter early-on.
In terms of masteries, I follow a standard 21/0/9 build, which is common in physical carries. I focus on anything that beefs up my auto attacks and make sure to take the 3 points in Lethality for the added 10% critical damage. It is not advised to finish off the 21st point if your character does not deal a significant amount of damage from auto attacks (including on-hit effects) as the increase in damage in a % of your base damage and not overall damage. This extra base damage makes it extremely easy to farm from levels 1-5 effectively without worrying about leaving the minion with just enough HP to deny yourself.
I take a point in exhaust to beef it up when I use it. The debuff is extremely helpful in taking down those important targets.
Experience gain is extremely key for Nidalee as she is very lackluster without an experience lead and downright useless when behind in levels.
As my last point, I prefer to take the 1 point in Meditation to strengthen my early-game survivability and capabilities, as well as my lane-staying power.
Most of these suggestions are personal preference to aid in the way I play her. Build as you need to assist your own style of play.
Most of the time when you see a Nidalee player, they will take Flash and Ghost. To this day, the only reason I can think that people would take this would be 1 of 3 things:
1. HotshotGG uses them with her.
2. They really just love not dying on a character that is already hard to catch and want to troll the other team.
3. They are reliant on them to survive with any character. (In which case they need to rethink the way they play.)
The reasons I suggest never using these on her are:
1. Ghost is mostly useless in general (it has it's uses, but not for her). Get something that helps the team out and not just you.
2. She already has a mini-flash that can go through a ton of walls in the game, on 1/80th the cooldown. Learn how to use her pounce to either juke, abuse walls or just find the nearest point of escape and safe house. If you have to, play practice games and try jumping everywhere you want to go. You will be surprised at the places she can jump.
As pertaining to my style of play, I prefer Cleanse and Exhaust to aid in her abilities as a carry. (I also use these if I go support with her, anyways.)
Cleanse is your get-out-jail-free card that allows you to continue a fight or get out of a sticky situation.
-If you can't jump, you're CC'd, so CLEANSE and GTFO.
-Sometimes your damage will be negated by CC, and with this build, you're a main carry.
Cleanse and blow some **** up.
Used intelligently, Cleanse is far more useful of a carry spell than Flash or Ghost ever will be (character dependent).
Exhaust is the extra edge you need in a tight battle or your way of completely dominating a team fight. The new exhaust is almost a necessity for some characters and to counter some characters.
-1v1 not going so well? Wait for their exhaust to end and for them to push their limits, then exhaust and win the fight. (Not advised against any character who takes ignite.)
-Nunu, Katarina, (insert burst character here) trying to deal damage? Make them cry while they deal 35% less on their only way to deal damage. Try this on a Garen who's targeting you a lot. He will regret wasting his time.
-Team Fight? Check. Enemy carry appears? Check. Exhaust up? Win. There's not much to explain in this sense. Exhaust the carry and rip him a new one for even showing his face in that fight.
Exhaust used at the right time can really turn the tides of team fights, especially when some players push their characters limits for that split-second longer to ensure victory. Make them QQ when they find out you had exhaust up.
Skill builds with Nidalee (as with almost every character) are personal preference. I suggest always starting with Javelin Toss, due to it's high potential damage for pre-minion fights. It can deal upwards of 120 damage at level 1, which is huge. The base heal amount on her heal isn't enough to warrant useful survivability and trap is... just trap. The debuff is not worth it that early and is near-impossible to land correctly.
The reason I suggest maxing out Javelin Toss early is for that extra damage kick when you need it most. In the early game stages, your only auto attack damage will be minuscule at best (due to Nidalee's low auto attack scaling), so the added attack speed from her heal is not worth the effort when you can nuke a 900-health squishy for 450. The max-rank spear is extremely clutch at finishing off a chase, sniping someone at a turret and punishing anyone who dares try and push you back in lane. Combined with Sheen, a Javelin to the face can cost them over 600 health for hitting you once.
While maxing out heal and putting one point in Bushwhack are given, it is important to keep Bushwhack at rank 1. For those of you who don't know how her Cougar skills work, they only scale off of Aspect of the Cougar's current rank and not the rank of the normal skill. Therefore, if you try to rank up Pounce by ranking up Bushwhack, you are wasting your time and costing yourself a ton of mana for something you will only use as a map awareness tool. At rank 5, Bushwhack costs 120 mana, which is significant for an AD Nidalee as she shouldn't build mana items and shouldn't need to. Leaving it at rank 1 allows you to place them for a mere 60 mana and still have the same effect. Max rank traps have uses late-game, but I will discuss that in detail later on. (Free Void Staff/Last Whisperer anyone?)
One thing to note about the item suggestions in this build is that they are just that: suggestions. Always build to counter what you need to while staying near your usual potential build. Since this build requires the fact that you need some percentage crit chance, you are forced with less room to work with countering than usual.
One thing to note about this build: Infinity Edge is a must. You are wasting your time if you do not get this item as it is essential to skyrocket her damage into late game.
For starting, I suggest grabbing a Doran's Ring and a health pot. Doran's Ring is a standard Nidalee starting item that allows her to either dominate a lane or stay in one for extended periods of time. Coupled with good last-hitting, this item allows you to get around 100 creep kills by itself. As for the health pot, I grab that because I don't start with heal and may need to heal up at level 1 if I make some mistakes, instead of being forced to go back while getting zoned. A mana pot can also work, but it shouldn't be needed if you conserve correctly.
Boots are near-optional for an early-game Nidalee. If you find yourself doing alright without the added speed, then get speed 1 boots and finish off Sheen/B.F. Sword faster for the added early damage. If you don't find yourself farming so well or getting caught up in chases a lot, then go for Merc Treads earlier to gain the added speed. Mercury Treads are a must for any carry, hands down. There are almost no better boots than those and CDR is not something that aids this build of Nidalee as well as others. The extra survivability is key for mid and late game.
Sheen is an early-game must for Nidalee. I've tried many times to rush Infinity Edge as fast as I can with this build, but if I can't get it out by the 15-minute mark, then my damage is non-existent when I need it most. Having that early Sheen will allow you to deal the damage Nidalee is accustomed to dealing in the early-mid game while you farm up for your Infinity Edge.
B.F. Sword should be your first main damage item. Coupled with Sheen's proc, the damage output can be absurd in the early stages, if you are able to pump out both by the 15-minute mark.
At this point in the game is when you should start shifting your focus to countering while building. What I mean by that is continue building toward your ideal items, but get what you need first before trying to finish everything fast.
-If you're being dominated by a caster, then grab a negatron cloak to keep yourself in the game when you need to be. Combined with the MR/lvl Glyphs and Merc Treads, a single negatron cloak should put you over 100 MR by level 13.
-Grab a Chain Vest if their carries are starting to get beefy or even finish Thornmail fast to gain the upper hand while they don't have life steal.
-Go for an early Black Cleaver if you aren't having issues surviving. The new version of Black Cleaver aids this build even more so than the original one. The armor reduction is extremely crucial for any carry and will help you out more than additional crit or damage will in the long run.
Once you have finished your Cleaver and Infinity Edge, start buying red and green pots with any leftover 500g you have. The additional crit chance, attack speed, health and damage are major bonuses at any point in any game. The difference they make are astounding and should never be ignored after you get your 2 main damage items. By this time, you should be hitting tanks for around 200-400 crits and squishy targets for 400-700. Do it enough and people will be scared to even see you on screen.
As soon as Trinity Force is done, you should be laying on the hurt quite often, by now. This is the time you focus on keeping yourself in a fight to deal said damage. Banshee's Veil is still an exceptional item for any carry (or any character, for that matter), despite recent nerfs and will prove invaluable at times. The reason I suggest Thornmail over other armor items is because as a main carry, you will be the target of interest. Make them pay for hitting you while gaining 100 armor for a mere 2000g.
Tips and Tricks
Despite Nidalee being known for lane dominance and lane-staying power, this build offers neither without some form of skill on the player side of things. She can be very easily zoned in a solo lane or in mid if not played correctly. It is not advised to take a 2v1 lane with this build due to the previous reason, unless you are extremely confident in your ability to play her. That being said, she is still a force to be reckoned with in any lane.
Some things to note:
-Always try to take mid with this build. If another character needs mid for a better reason, then switch to a character that can aid the team otherwise. This build is extremely experience and gold dependent.
-Nidalee can solo dragon at level 11, but is better suited for it at level 12 (golem and lizard bring the wall down to 10). Never try without Sheen before level 12.
-It is not advisable to try and gank lanes often. You need gold and you need reliable gold. Ganks are both unreliable and risky. Never gank without Sheen unless you know you can deal just enough to get the kill. Her damage potential is very small without Sheen and can lead to you dying in many cases.
-Grab red whenever you can. It will allow you to dominate the mid lane no matter who's there, because she can already chase well. Combined with a slow, it makes things quite disgusting for her.
-Brush it off. Like Kennen, she can practically double her effectiveness while using brush to her advantage. Use brush to get away after a burst to get back all your cougar cooldowns while you heal once. One 150 point heal and a 900-damage burst combo that can't be predicted can make for some fun surprises, especially against those characters that require a target to deal damage (i.e. Vlad).
-Always carry a red pot on you for that extra spot of health when you need it. Red pot for some damage on turrets or to counter a Karthus/Caitlyn ult. Red pots are just a necessary thing to have with most carries.
-Never use Takedown once they're below 50% health except as a finisher. It can almost quadruple your next auto when used correctly. The exception to this is early-mid game, when Takedown can put them in spear/auto attack kill range.
Combos (buffered commands are indicated with a hyphen between each command that should be buffered. Buffering any human skill while in the middle of changing from Cougar to Human form will yield negative results. Always wait a split-second to use a human skill after changing to human form.):
-While in Cougar form, her normal highest-damage combo is W, E, Q. Space them out if your target allows for maximum Sheen damage. Typical combo with Sheen is E-W, Q, W. (Waiting period is defined by commas, in the previous.)
-Her highest burst damage combo is Human Form (HF) Q, auto, E-R-W (switching to Cougar and buffering pounce), auto, E, auto-Q. This combo is not advised once you reach late-mid game as you will be negating critical damage from autos.
Create a pattern for your own personal farming use. It's good to push a turret, but make sure you farm at the same time. If need be, break off and farm the Wraith and Wolf camps for bonus gold and XP, if you don't feel like ganking or they have a jungler. Remember that the minion priority is Siege, Melee, Caster in terms of how much gold each gives. Always make sure to last hit the siege minion.
Quick tip: Since there are characters who can just push a lane like a boss, know how to farm under a turret's fire. Between 2-6 minutes in, 2 turret shots will put a melee minion within last-hit range. During most of the early game (2-10 minutes), 1 auto and 1 turret shot will put a caster minion into last hit range. Let turrets pound on siege minions as they will almost always leave them in last hit range.
Use spear to farm if you find yourself being zoned or if you can't seem to land good spears on them and you have no reason to heal. Spearing siege minions while under the turret can give you some gold you otherwise wouldn't have.
IT'S A TRAP!
Yes, yes it is.
Nidalee's trap, while mostly useless in general fighting terms, has many uses for other reasons and one extreme use for fighting. Remember: they only last 4 minutes.
Nidalee's trap's main purpose in the majority of her games and the majority of said games is map awareness. Key trap placement can allow "sight beyond sight" and keep the enemy team at bay, while keeping your team informed. Since Nidalee's trap can be seen by the opposing team (albeit not very well), place traps in brush to mitigate this downfall. Advisable trap locations are the typical clown-car bush (the small, single bush on either side of the middle lane), by golem and lizard on either side, and the "choke" brush near either mid-lane's second turret and wraith camp.
Against stealth characters, Nidalee's trap can provide key turning points when their stealthy gets careless. Randomly place traps in mid to gain the possibility of early gank detection. Place traps in choke points so they can't stealth by. If you feel you're being followed by a stealth character, jump into a bush while switching forms and place a trap on yourself. They should run right over it almost every time.
Since trap can reveal stealth champions, it can also be used to reveal specific stealth objects as well. Wards, Teemo shrooms and JitBs can all be revealed by traps and then killed once found. If you see where someone placed a ward, make a mental note of where and then take it out once you are able to for a free 25g. Also note that Pounce makes a different sound when it lands on a target that it can damage. Use this sound change to find wards and then trap them.
In terms of Dragon/Baron: 2 traps at Dragon and 3 traps at Baron are enough to make sure you can see what's going on.
Trapping a team fight. This is where it can get tricky. It is not advisable to use trap in a team fight, due to the casting time and delay of activation. You're using up valuable auto attack time! Only trap in a team fight in there are a ton of tanks or they are heavy-stacking survivability gear. Having a free 40% Armor/Magic pen on up to 5 people can make things seems less "tankish".
This build was created to bring out Nidalee's AD potential as both a carry and an assist dps. I do not suggest doing this for a ranked game unless your team can support you well. Many other carries can do better with the right support.
As a concluding note and reminder, remember that any way you build any character is entirely up to you. This build is designed to open peoples' minds back up to a side of Nidalee that has been long forgotten and needs some rekindling spirit. Hopefully some Nidalee player will try this out, or even a new Nidalee player can try out a not-so-cookie-cutter build that can lead to some fun times, great action and high skill yield (meaning that with effort, they can perform beyond some ways other Nidalee builds can't).
Hopefully this guide wasn't too confusing or terribly designed, seeing as it is my first one. ^_^