Nidalee Build Guide by Rzaney
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
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.
(Keep in mind, this guide is a bit lengthy, and for dedicated Nidalee players looking for a different look on Nidalee. This is my first guide on Mobafire so please offer suggestions on how to improve, redo, or overall just make this guide and future guides better. Your support and constructive criticism is welcomed. Actually read the guide before going "I stopped reading after I saw the items/runes/masteries." There's probably a section you'll be able to find information regarding as to why it's there.)
To get started on this, Nidalee has to be my absolute favorite champ in LoL to play. I've had tons of fun with nid, and pubstomped with her too in the 1300 elo range. Let me just get to it by saying this: Nidalee is not for the faint of heart. You don't "Know" Nidalee, you don't "Learn" Nidalee, you don't "Play" Nidalee. You DESTROY with Nidalee, and the enemy team will fear the cougar. But in all honesty, Nidalee is fun to play, funnier to pubstomp with, and funniest to watch as enemies chase her across the map wasting all their spells and abilities.
And here's some great Nidalee Art from DeviantArt. Kudos to Saehral for making this.
When I first started playing Nid, I used to always go AP and supporting bottom lane. Sure I could land spears and harass a lot, and heal my friend as well, but I didn't really feel like I was doing anything that couldn't be done better by another champ.
From here, I decided to try AP Midalee, and felt it was okay and all, but the lack of CC really destroyed ganking potential, and the spears only helped if you could actually hit them. I still felt a bit too squishy, and decided to move on and forgot about her for a while.
Later on, I saw a hotshotgg stream where he went AD Nid Top (Don't ask for details, I don't remember when it was). I was like, "What's he doing? That'll never work", but i was wrong. he managed to maintain some good damage and tankiness with his build, and I figured i'd give Nidalee a try again and went top with her despite my whole team going "omg, troll Nidalee heading top here >.>".
I was facing a gangplank and went cloth armor with * 5 pots, and I did quite well. The heals gave fairly decent sustain, and her cougar form gave great mobility and burst potential without sacrificing consistent physical Damage. I went ninja tabi, and Wriggles, to a warmogs and atmas (Can't go wrong with Atmogs :D) because I felt I was too squishy with my hp and utterly dominated him later on (This is before I knew Nid countered GP top). The rest is history of how I came to enjoy playing AD Nid top with her great survivability and bursty damage.
If you don't want to read everything, and just want to know what items to build rather than just blindly follow the ones above, skip down to the items section.
Terminology (Used in the Guide)
AD = Attack Damage, AP = Ability Power
AS = Attack Speed, CC = Crowd Control
CS = Creep Score (Farmed minions/monsters, etc)
Blue = Blue Buff, or Blue Golems
Red = Red Buff, or Red Lizards
Tri-Bush = Bush with 3 Openings at Top on Purple side, or Bot on Blue Side
River-Bush = Bush right near the lane going towards Middle from Bot or Top on both sides
Note: I don't care if you call it bush, or brush, so long as we all know what it is in League of Legends. It's technically brush, but bush is much easier to say and visualize in my opinion.
(V) Epic Nid Picture (Snow Bunny Picture) From the League of Legends Wiki (V)
Keep in mind that this build is not to be EXACTLY followed. Play smart. Counter-Build with say a Negatron Cloak or Hexdrinker vs a heavy AP team instead of an early Phage or Wriggles. Don't get Armor if you're against an AP champ top, or Magic Resist vs an AD champ top in laning phase.
* Great Pusher
* Fun as Hell
* Easy to LEARN
* Good at Backdooring
* Traps for Map Awareness
* Great Mobility
* Good Against Most Melee Bruisers Top Lane
* She's A Freaking Cougar!
* Pretty much worthless if you get behind
* Hard to MASTER
* Somewhat Team Reliant
* Possible Haters Saying "Nid Can't Go Top" Though I've Seen Much Less Of This Nowadays
* Hates Kassadin, Ezreal, or anyone with a short cooldown jump/flash
Be aware that Nidalee is viable in multiple roles. She can support, AP mid, or solo top. While I do not cover the first 2, keep in mind that they also work to an extent and all have their own advantages/disadvantages.
Don't forget, you're playing AD Nidalee, not AP Nidalee. You won't have the mana regen to keep spamming spears and heals. If you have full mana, then by all means, use some traps, use your heal if you need to, chuck a spear at max range. It'll still hurt as AD Nid, just not as badly. Always try to keep enough mana for a heal. You never know when you'll need it, or the AS buff. Post-6 You can just use cougar form if you're out of mana, or harass with auto-attacks. Mana isn't a huge issue with AD Nid since you'll be in cougar half the time and not spamming heals and spears like AP Nid.
Nid's Skill "Sandwich"
Think of this as the existence of Nid's Skill Sandwich (Copyrighting that ™). It makes her part of who she is, a mobile killing machine in the jungle and it's bushes, and will save your life MULTIPLE times EVERY game. Try getting boots level one, and going into a bush and seeing how fast you are. Speed around a bit, harass and run all you want. This is a huge advantage Nidalee has over other champs.
Think of this as the bread of Nid's Skill Sandwich. It seals the deal, and is what makes AP Nid who she is for the most part. In human form, the spear may seem sorta lackluster if you're going AD Nid, but you'd be surprised how much damage that 250% increase can do. Since I play AD Nid and go top, I don't level this up as often as the attack speed buff, but I will get some points in it early to, so to speak, "snipe" those low hp champs thinking they're safe behind their turrets, or in a bush with a trap sight on them. There is no more satisfying sound than a successful spear hit and the announcer going "AN ENEMY HAS BEEN SLAIN".
In cougar form, this is Nid's most prominent ability. The 1:1 ad scaling ratio is fantastic, and that up to 300% increase depending on hp is not something to laugh at. Use it on a squishy at half hp or less, and they'll be lucky to get away with even 100 hp. After using Nidalee for a while, you'll start to know how much damage you can do with that cougar q and spear. Practice, practice, practice.
Think of this as the jelly/jam of Nid's Skill Sandwich. It keeps the flavor fresh, awesome, and safe, or to speak metaphorically of a metaphor, safe from the evil vulture of the enemy jungler. It provides the substance of this awesome sandwich, and the mobility and consistency of it. This keeps you safe in lane, keeps your jungle safer, and helps provide map awareness throughout the game, which as previously stated, is very important.
In cougar, if you spam pounce, you will go SLIGHTLY faster than if you just regularly walk in cougar. Also: if you're super pro at Nid (and probably shouldn't be reading this guide at all in the first place), you'll be able to utilize it in multiple areas besides chasing and combat. This skill separates the good and the bad Nids, so use it often, use it well, and most importantly of all, use it in the first place. Practice this, and soon enough you'll be pouncing over walls like crazy making the enemy go "Where'd she go? O.o", and juking even the best of players.
Think of this as the peanut butter of Nid's Skill Sandwich. It packs a punch with AD Nid, keeps the sandwich strong and together, and provides clutch healing moments. While this heal is quite measly, you'll be surprised how many clutch heals you can make with it (If a teammate is ignited and low hp for example, this just might save them despite the heal-reduction of ignite). Remember that it also has a 20/30/40/50/60% attack speed buff, so use it on your carry, use it before you cougar, whatever. Don't underestimate this ability. Karth ult coming in? Use this quick and go to cougar. That 10/20/30 MR might just save your life with the heal.
In cougar, it claws enemies in front of you in a cone, and is a great farming tool. It provides the magical damage needed to burst down tankier champs.
Think of this as the whole freaking Nid Skill Sandwich in one. Not only does this give more move speed, armor, and magic resist, it also provides 3 new skills to burst down champs and win exchanges. This is what Nid is, This is what REALLY proves to the world that you're a dam good Nid Player. Knowing when to use this, and when to go back to human is CRUCIAL in playing Nidalee. Just remember that you don't use mana in cougar form, and that cooldown reduction does affect all these skills (hence the Brutalizer and Youmuus). Turn on primal surge and Youmuus, go into cougar, and destroy those carries.
For skills, I like to get a point into traps first because the early game awareness and anti-gank potential it gives are fairly decent. Alternatively, you can put a point into primal surge if you may need that level 1 heal and are confident you can keep an eye on the jungle without traps.
I'd recommend going R>E>Q>W if you think you need to spear people to secure kills, or harass (Which I'll do often if I find I have excess mana and don't have to heal/trap much). I mostly just use traps for their utility, but if someone is really tanky, you can put a few extra points into traps instead of javelin toss for the % armor/magic resist decrease if you need it or you can go for R>E>W>Q against tankier enemies/teams.
I personally believe that igniteand flashsummoners are the best choice for AD Nida, however you can change it up. If you feel you're super pro at hopping walls with nidalee, go ahead and get ignite/ghost. If you want to take the tower fast and not lose cs, get teleport/flash or ignite. If you want something to secure kills and keep you alive, then just go with the default ignite/flash combo. Trust me, that extra ignite damage will either A. Make your cougar q do extra damage earlier, B. Help secure a kill after a failed cougar q, or C. Help finish off a champion that feels like running while low. These are the main choices i'd choose, but you're the one playing, feel free to do whatever.
I take 21/0/9 For masteries because Nid has plenty of sustain and survivability on her own and doesn't really need defensive masteries. She benefits from having Blue as well as Red buff though. Remember, a good AD Nid will have damage in a 1.1:1 to .9:1 ratio for physical to magical. This means they're utilizing both damages like a hybrid (without the hybrid items) to deal "Tons of Damage" and win 1v1 exchanges.
I take a point in Summoner's Wrath for ignite when it's on cooldown, since Nidalee benefits from both AD and AP, or if you took ghost, for increased movement speed. I also take 3 points in brute force for the extra early game AD (Which combined with Flat AD runes means a whole lotta hurt). From here You'll want to get Alacrity up for the AS boost, and get Sorcery For the Cooldown Reduction as they're also the pre-requisites for Weapon Expertise, and Arcane Knowledge. I take both of the percentage penetration masteries since, as I've previously stated, Nid does physical and magical damage, without the need for the hybrid items, and can dish out a lot of damage from both. From here, we take Havoc for the percent damage increase and to get us to 17 points for Sunder, since we need that extra Flat Armor Penetration and to get to 20. As always when going 21 offense, take the final mastery executioner. The 7.5% increase with havoc below 40% may not seem like a lot, but stack that with Nid's cougar q percent increase damage depending on health, and it really starts to add up.
For utility, I take a point in Summoners Insight since you never know when that 15 second shorter cooldown on flash will save you, or if you took teleport from above, the 1 second decrease may secure a kill or help a teammate. You also want to take Expanded mind. It may not seem very significant at first, but you want to have a Spare 100 or so mana if you need to use a heal, or finish someone with a spear. After that, put 4 points to fill out swiftness, since Movement/Mobility is crucial with Nidalee. With your last point, take runic affinity since the increased duration with buffs helps immensely no matter what champ you play.
Some people have said to put some points into defense, but as I've said above, i don't feel a good Nidalee will need defensive masteries as they'll be quite good at juking, and remaining safe with traps or cougar and having exceptional awareness. I would recommend some defensive masteries if you're facing someone who's pretty bursty like akali, but otherwise, stick with what you've got. If you do have to use defensive masteries, put 2 points in resistance and hardiness, 4 into durability, and 1 into veterans scars to replace the utility masteries. This'll help you be a little bit more sustainy as well as have some more hp.
For Runes, I Recommend the Default Runes listed above. That early attack damage will help out your last hitting and early game (pre-6) a lot. Alternatively, you can go for Marks of Desolation, however I don't like to go for these since they don't help as much early game.
Always Take Armor yellows. You'll need it for the enemy bruiser, and take scaling magic resist marks since Nid is one of the only (if not the only) ranged champ that gains MR/lvl. These help more late game against those pesky mages, and should provide enough protection without sacrificing gold for a different item. For quints, always go for flat AD as they're very handy in lane, and while they do diminish throughout the game, are quite popular and helpful in any match and will help your last hitting if you're a bit, you know, bad at it.
Remember, It's completely player preference to get flat, or scaling Runes. I prefer to go Flat AD since I like to deal more damage earlier on, but get scaling magic resistance runes. Others may like scaling AD runes, but as always, runes are personal preference.
You see the word, "Awareness", what do you think about? Do you think being aware of your existence? Do you think being aware of playing a game? Do you think of being aware IN the game? If you chose the last one, congratulations, you've earned a cookie for prodigious video gaming. If you chose the others, then go uninstall league of legends and get off my guide right now.
Anyways, as a solo top role, you need to be aware of their jungler. Sure he's not there right then and there, or maybe he is, and if so, then good luck with that, but if he isn't, be sure to be wary of him. Use your traps,you have them for a reason. They do give a decent armor/magic percentage decrease,and that 80 magic damage at level one will hurt like hell if they have no magic resistance. They also give sight for 12 seconds, so place them downriver a bit.
I recommend placing them at the edge of the river bush, inside the tri-bush, and more downriver to where the path to Blue Golem is (If you're on purple that is, otherwise place it by baron somewhere.). If you do follow the build blood sweat and tears for some reason, you'll have Wriggles by the time you're level six (hopefully, unless you're getting destroyed or you're horrible at last hitting).
Put the ward from the shop orfrom Wriggleswhere you would put a support ward bottom lane, but opposite side. Basically, just outside tri-bush hugging the wall to baron. This will provide good vision from any ganks without you having to waste traps. If you're on purple, keep traps in the tri-bush, if you're on blue, it's recommended to do the same, but not as necessary.
No, Just no. While Nid may seem to "Belong in the Jungle", she does not belong in the summoner's rift jungle. She can jungle, sure, but her lack of CC and redeeming characteristics in jungle make it hard. This puts all the CC responsibility onto the laners, and you don't want that. You want to be feared as a jungle, not losing your prey every gank if someone screws up one slow or summoner.
If you REALLY want to jungle Nid, I recommend going cloth and pots * 5 and starting with e, going to wolves, then go to wraiths (For level two trap armor reduction and primal surge attack speed boost) blue, golems/red. and then ganking (If you can). Work towards a Wriggles and Merc treads, then get Phage, and either Frozen Mallet or Warmogs to Atmas. I'm just theory-crafting here, but post-6 with Phage/Frozen Mallet or red would be scary to me if it came pouncing after me, it's just getting to level six, helping the team before then, and clearing the jungle fast enough that's the problem.
Juking and Hopping Walls
Nidalee's Pounce can also be used in very evasive maneuvers. I'm sure we've all seen a Wukong pretend to be a clone, and juke out a whole team, even more than once and finally escape. Well you can do this with Nid, so long as you have brush or a thin wall to go over. If the enemy is chasing you when you're low, chances are they'll try to cut you off when you head into a bush.
If a jungler ganks from red jungle on purple side, and you're cut off from your turret, don't freak out and give up. Pretend to go into the closer brush to your turret and run out of it. They'll try to cut you off 95% of the time.
Once they do this, either hop to the next bush and pretend to go that way, or hop out the far end, and make them chase you through the river. If you do go into their bush, wait on the outside of it closer to your turret if they're together, and hop over them to the other bush. If they go seperately, then go out the far end and don't be afraid to either go to the river, or go through their own turret. The last thing they'll expect you to do is go into their turret, so use this to your advantage (If you can take a few turret shots). Remember, your "Measly Heal" may just save you from a turret shot, so use it.
If you're on blue side, then go ahead and jump out the far side of their bush, and head off into their red jungle. You can jump over baron wall with enough practice, and numerous other walls in the jungle from the correct angle. Sometimes they'll chase you to the backside of their red, so feel free to go into the bush and juke the other way, or hop the small wall, but always be aware of the enemy mid. You don't want 3 people on you with severe CC.
This is a particular situation meant to give a general idea. As you play Nid more, you'll start to understand what she's capable of in terms of juking, and what walls she can, or can't jump over. As always, practice, practice, practice.
Here's a quick video on wall hopping made by Suzumiyacham and uploaded to youtube. I sure learned a lot from it, and i'm hoping that whoever is reading/watching this will too. (Sorry for bad quality, it sorta goes down when transferred from youtube, but it should be viewable.)
Nidalee's Role In Team Fights
So yeah, you're a big bad cougar, you do some burst, you're fairly tanky, but what are you supposed to be doing? Now this may just be personal preference, but I've always used my Nid as a semi-tanky dps anti-carry bruiser champ. She's also a potent chaser in the jungle. your goal as Nid is to get their carry out of the fight, scare them off, whatever, even kill them, and protect your own.
No squishy wants a cougar clawing up their face, of that i'm sure. Get the stragglers, and take some of the fire. Remember that you get bonus armor/magic resist in cougar form and increased burst. What you'll want to do in team fights is to poke from the outside while everyone groups up. Any damage you deal to the enemy counts, so don't miss those spears. When the fighting starts, either Primal surge your carry so they have more dps, or primal surge yourself and head in. You want to take their carry out if you can, and don't hesitate to use your cougar Q. Trust me, you deal far more damage spamming it as it's your main AD Nid burst source.
Analyze the situation, is it worth it to go in? Who should i focus? What should I do here? Nid is fantastic at cleaning up, especially with a Frozen Mallet or red. Try to remain near bushes if you can. Ask your teammates to relocate to help you fulfill your goals and play to your own advantages as well. Chances are, most teams will accomodate for your champs playstyle so long as it doesn't interfere with their own. Remember that most fights are situational.
Don't hesitate to save your own carry with your "measly heal" as it may just save their life. If they're doomed no matter what, then be sure to focus their carry since yours is now dead, or get your team to back off as you may now be at a disadvantage. Always be aware that you are the bruiser/tanky dps, you get in their faces, initiate occasionally, and go for their carries if you can, or it is beneficial to your team. Remember that it's fine to focus a tank if they're the only one in range, and the rest of the enemy team isn't around, or can't reach them in the next few seconds. The more you play, the better your judgment will be, as well as the better your gameplay.
Side Note: Always be careful of heavy kiting champs like Ashe. They can really screw up your day.
Early GameFor starting items, I tend to go boots and 3 pots. I find that this gives good sustain and survivability with Nidalee's 15% movement increase passive, but if you're facing someone like gangplank or riven, (maybe Renekton too) get cloth armorand 5 pots as they're heavy AD users.
I don't recommend going Doran's Blade as you have a lack of speed, and only a little hp and a tiny bit of lifesteal versus say armor and pots, but if you're facing a melee champ that doesn't harass much, then feel free to get a Doran's blade to help last hitting and harassing.
If you're facing someone like Tryndamere top (He's not op, he just dominates late game, deal with it and stop QQing about him), you're gonna want to get either ninja tabi and Wriggles for armor, or merc treads and Wriggles to get out of his mocking shout more. He's not a fun guy to lane against but he's manageable.
If you're facing kennen or swain top, then you're definitely going to want to get merc treads. Wriggles is optional, but try to get a Negatron Cloak. That extra Negatron MR has saved me many times.
Also: I don't normally get a Hexdrinker, but i'm sure on a number of occasions against AP's top it would've saved me many times. Don't neglect the effectiveness of that shield, but remember, always build situationally, the items at the top of this guide are not meant to be lived, breathed, and thought by. They're their as a reference and an outline.
If you can, get Wrigglesbefore your boots, but if you need more speed or the boots effects, don't hesitate to get them first. Try to save up for a ward or two if you can't get Wriggles Regardless, always get bootsyour first b if you didn't get them first. Remember that you don't need to buy whole items at once. I recommend getting a Madreds if you have trouble last hitting, or vamp scepter and long sword (part of madreds) if you need more sustain.Remember that 75% of the time you're ranged, they're not, so use it to your advantage. Keep in mind, it's completely fine to get a Doran's Blade if you need that extra survivability and can't afford other items. Try to always get a ward when you go back. Even if you have a Wriggles, the extra ward you have can help block an entrance point, or keep an eye on an enemy buff.
If laning phase persists, then keep farming up, play aggressive if you can. Remember that harassing a champ who can heal it right back up is not worth the 2 or so cs you lose. Remember to keep using the bush to your advantage. At early-mid game (towers getting hit, people getting antsy, 15 minutes coming by or so) try for a Phage and Brutalizer.These will give you the necessary CD reduction, damage, and CC as well as some survivability to be able to win lane, but always keep in mind, you don't need to take the tower to win lane. You can just out-farm the enemy, or deny them while maintaining your own. Remember, 12-15 CS = around 1 kill, but remember, assists also give a significant amount of gold as well as stopping kill streaks.
Mid GameNow we're at mid game here. Towers are starting to fall, team-fights are breaking out. I recommend completing a Frozen Mallet or completing a Warmogs . Frozen Mallet will help your team in early team-fights a lot, and that extra hp helps a lot at this point, but a Warmogs will work if you need more survivability. AD Nid is strongest Mid Game. This is where you shine and can take down the stragglers from a failed team-fight, and also deal some insane damage. If there's any time to do good and get your team an advantage, it's now.
Side Note: If you need more damage, feel free to get an early sheen for the proc, or maybe get a zeal if you need more speed (though you probably won't due to cougar and her passive). If you didn't get or your team doesn't need a Frozen Mallet at this point, then be sure to get a Warmogs for the extra hp (which you might need. Cougar form makes it extremely easy to farm up the warmogs). Immediately follow either a Frozen Mallet or a Warmogs by an Atmas.That damage boost from the hp is too good to pass up and the armor will give you more sustain as well. If you've been doing insanely well, then either get a Trinityafter atmas, or finish up your Youmuu's Ghostblade.
If you've been doing decent, you'll have your Fratmas, or Atmogs. If you've been doing terrible, well then at this point it's best if you just backdoor and disrupt the enemy. You won't do much in fights if you're going 0-8 in lane, but as long as you have your ult, you'll be able to push and your traps give great awareness when you can't afford wards.
Now we're getting mid-late game, Aces may have happened, Baron is contested over. Unless there are two people constantly not surrendering on the enemy team or your own, the teams should be evenly matched to make it to this point. You'll want to finish up a Trinity if you've started it, or complete your Youmuu's if you need more dps. As said above, if you've been doing insanely well, you should have ninja/merc, Wriggles, Frozen Mallet/Warmogs, Atmas, Trinity, and Brutalizer. If you didn't get a Trinity, that's fine.
Now it's late game, Finish up your item builds, build situationally, all that good stuff. If you've been doing decent, you'll probably have ninja/merc, Wriggles, Frozen Mallet/Warmogs, Atmas, Trinity, and Brutalizer (Same as if you were doing insanely well at mid-late game). If you've been doing average, you might not have a full Trinity built. Finish up with a Youmuus and remember to replace your Wriggles for a Bloodthirster later, or replace Wriggles for a Last Whisper if the enemy team has tons of armor.
If you didn't get Trinity, and you've been dieing a lot, get a guardians angel, or get a Force of Nature from your Negatron[ if you bought it and the enemy team has heavy magic damage. Alternatively, you can get a Banshee's Veilinstead of Force of Natureif they have mages that rely on a specific proc or stun. As always, build situationally.
Your final build should look something like 1. ninja/merc, 2. Bloodthirster/Last Whisper, 3. Frozen Mallet/Warmogs, 4. Atmas, 5. Trinity/Guardians Angel/Force of Nature/Banshees, and 6. Youmuus. This will provide you with the necessary tankiness, as well as damage to be an effectice anti-carry bruiser and assist your team, or take a tower down fast if you've been backdooring. The Trinity force proc with spamming cougar abilities will do very good magic and physical damage, and chasing should be a breeze with Trinity or Frozen Mallet.
I HIGHLY suggest having at least one or the other of Frozen Mallet and Trinity. Having both is fine due to the stats on Trinity with it's sheen proc, and Frozen Mallets slowing effect, but if you went Warmogs, it's better to get a Trinity. If you need more hp (for whatever reason) then feel free and get a Fratmogs and skip Trinity, resuming to get a Youmuus and replacing your Wriggles with a Bloodthirster or with a Last Whisper.
Different/Situational Item Builds
Survivability Build (AD heavy enemy team):
1. ninja tabi, 2. Bloodthirster, 3. Warmogs, 4. Atmas, 5. Guardians Angel, and 6. Youmuus.
Survivability Build (AP or CC Heavy Team)
1. merc treads, 2. Bloodthirster, 3. Warmogs, 4. Atmas, 5. Force of Nature/Banshee's Veil, and 6. Youmuus.
My General Build
1. merc treads, 2. Bloodthirster/Last Whisper(Armor Heavy) , 3. Warmogs , 4. Atmas, 5. Trinity/Guardians Angel/, and 6. Youmuus.
1. ninja tabi/merc treads, 2. Bloodthirster, 3. Frozen Mallet, 4. Atmas, 5. Infinity/Trinity, and 6. Youmuus.
1. ninja tabi/merc treads, 2. Last Whisper, 3. Frozen Mallet/Warmogs, 4. Atmas, 5. Infinity/Trinity, and 6. Youmuus.
If you want to play AD Nid you have to know WHEN to play AD Nid. Nid excels at facing most melee bruisers due to her range and sustain, as well as incredible sustain/escape abilities. Nid wins by being aggressive and making the enemy fear her, and be punished for every last hit they make. Lane Dominance is key to playing AD Nid top, so be careful about these matchups.
Jax is a pretty scary guy solo top. He pretty much wins every 1v1 he goes into due to his high physical and magical damage output as well as his passives. If he has his dodge up, don't auto him or he'll stun you and deal some crazy damage. Stick to the brush to be more mobile and kite or harass him when his abilities are on cooldown. Jax pretty much wins all 1v1s, so if you're not that fed, Keep Your Distance. Your cougar q will still hit jax in dodge if he's low, so if you have to hit him, then use it.
Riven can also be scary. She has a lot of CC at her command, but she's all AD and melee, so use this to your advantage. Harass her with range, and avoid her when she starts to charge at you. She'll win most 1v1 encounters pre-6, so just try to last hit and harass her when you can. Cloth armor and 5 pots is recommended, but if you're using Nid right, you can also go for boots and 3 pots. When you get cougar, you should be able to win exchanges and win lane. This is a fairly balanced matchup between two equally skilled players.
Kennen or Swain(Or APs in general)
APs can be quite scary to face with Nidalee. Sure she's the only Ranged champ who gets mr/lvl, but that's beside the point. The point is, they have ranged attacks and armor won't be effective. They can give back harass, and will win most exchanges pre-6, and even some after.
Udyr is probably the hardest champ to lane against. He has free infinite sustain, he has a free spammable shield to block any harass, and he's great at locking Nidalee down. Most of the time Udyr will be in the jungle, but if he's not, then just play passively, and try to outfarm him. You can't do much to him, even post-6.
Pantheon is pretty equal with Riven. Between two skilled players, this will probably end up in a farm fest, or a stalemate, but he does have a wimpy stun that can still wreck your day. When he has his shield passive up, don't use your cougar q. It WILL block a Nid cougar q, so either auto attack it first and then go q, or just avoid him in general. This is a fairly even lane, so not much will happen.
Mordekaiser has to be the BIGGEST BULLY of top/mid lane. He will push and push, and hit you in the process all the time. The trick to trading with him equally is to make sure you harass while his abilities are on cooldown. Try to keep your heal off cooldown in case he uses an ult/ignite combo, which will not be fun and will probably lose you the lane. He's one of the only champs I'd recommend using teleport against as he will push like crazy. Try for an early Negatron (before Wriggles maybe, or Phage/Brutalizer) as this will give you a much better chance for survival.
Akali can be a pretty big threat when you go top with Nid. The way to defeat her is to harass and deny her as much as you can pre-6 before her ult, and beat her to level 6 as well. Be sure to get a Negatron as it may just save you if she dives, and help you win exchanges. Keep the bushes trapped, and don't hesitate to put a trap into her shroud. That vision may just save you, or secure you a kill. Post-6 you have to remember, you have two AoE cougar abilities and have a human skillshot ability as well as stealth detection. Use these to your advantage. If you manage to deny akali well enough, or snowball off her, then you'll do fine. If you let her keep even, chances are she'll be back with a vengeance.
Yorick: His ghosts can see into bushes when he places them down and he can harass with them without taking damage on his own. It's hard to remain near brush when he spams ghosts all day. Try to beat him as soon as you get 6 if he doesn't as he'll have extreme mana problems before he builds, say, a manamune or just a tear. Harass him for every mini he tries to go for, but don't miss any of your own, and don't trade blows before six as he'll probably win all exchanges.
Darius: Beware his pull, if he does pull you, stay near him till he uses his q (The spin attack). This will minimize damage from it because you'll only be hit by the shaft, and not the blade. Harass him when you can but don't forget to CS, and try to avoid getting locked down. His spin attack has great base damage, his pull will grab you mid air, and your cougar armor won't help against his true damage ultimate. If you have blood stacks on you post-6 then get away fast or prepare to take a beating. As with any melee champ, harass without missing CS, and avoid getting locked down.
Ashe: Careful of her first critcal and slows. If she does slow you, get out right away. You won't be able to do much to her pre-6 as she outranges you, and has tons of CC to ruin your day. Post-6 Just stick in the brush and burst her down. If you've beaten her to 6, you will probably be able to kill her in 1-2 tries. If you're about even, then just be careful of their jungler when you try to get her. Her slows will make ganks quite hard to escape.
In early game, you're going to want to get your boots and 3 pots or your cloth and 5 pots depending on the champ you're against. Trap up whichever buff you're near. If you're on blue team, put some traps in the bushes to prevent invasions, as well as the ramp to blue buff from top lane.
If they invade, keep trapping into the bushes to see them, but don't get pulled by a blitzcrank or something stupid like that. Remember, bushes are your friend, but they can also hold many untold dangers. Be sure to also help your jungle take blue if he needs it. If you're on purple side, be sure to put some traps up in the river, as well as tri-bush. Keep to the bush around red buff, and trap the ramp heading to wraiths from blue side.
If you didn't take traps first and went for your heal, that's fine too, but keep watch on red buff and be careful of invasions. If nothing happens in the first 2 minutes, then go and head up to top lane. Try to get a trap at the edge of the river-bush on both blue and purple team.
In laning phase you'll want to harass and farm. Keep up the pressure on them. Make them suffer for each last hit they take, but also keep maintaining your own CS. Chances are, they won't win exchanges since you can kite, and keep hitting them even as they run. Use this to your advantage, and don't be afraid to use some mana. If your mana is full a lot, you're doing something wrong. Try to keep the mana at around 1.5 times what it takes to heal. This will provide you with enough to heal, or do other actions like secure a kill with a javelin toss. Keep in mind, your traps will have a 20% Armor/Magic Resist shredding ability at level one. Most tops won't know this, and will walk over them while in sight to "be smart" and not get seen outside of sight with the trap's vision on them. Try to hit them when they have this debuff as it's pretty much free damage when you harass.
Farm up to your Wriggles. Don't be afraid to go back before you can get it to get the recipe for it, or to get health and mana if you're below 50%. Chances are, the other top can't push very hard, and will likely still be there by the time you're back, or have gone back themselves. In early game, you'll want to get your Wriggles and Negatron against an AP champ, and farm and deny the enemy their farm. If you're doing well, you'll reach 6 before the enemy or have a few kills under your belt. Regardless, your primary goals are Wriggles, boots, and maybe a Brutalizer or Phage, taking into account the need for a Negatron cloak or a Hexdrinker if they are AP.
tl:dr, Your primary goals are to get your starting items, harass and deny their champ, and possibly disrupt enemy jungle (if you think you'll get away with it and won't lose your own tower or too much cs). Farm and deny.
You're starting to get to midgame. Some towers may have fallen (hopefully not yours), and small team fights are occuring often. At this point, you're gonna want to either A. Keep farming and denying the enemy champ (if it's a very passive lane and too sustainy on either end), B. Start taking enemy buffs and jungle creeps since you have your cougar form, or C. Help your team out in other lanes if you've taken the enemies tower. If they've taken your tower, and aren't say, Mordekaiser, or another heavy pusher, then why are you playing Nidalee in the first place. AD Nid should NEVER lose laning phase except to her tricky matchups, or to constant jungler ganks.
As I've stated before, Mid game is the part of the game where Nid is strongest at. At this point, you'll have great damage, great survivability (Compared to others) and a great skill set to keep tabs on the enemy as well as keep buffing/healing teammates. Traps are important here, and Nid can carry most team fights at this point with her extra tankiness from cougar form. Always remember that Nid scales with experience, and not so much with gold or team presence, so if you've been solo lane and are level 11+ at this point, you have your second ult up and ready to destroy with. Let minis push and help out other lanes, chase stragglers, kill the enemy jungler when he takes red, all that good stuff. If your team is down, now's the time to help them get back up.
At this point you'll likely have ninja/merc treads, Wriggles, Phage/Frozen Mallet/Warmogs (if you're doing well) and Brutalizer. Abuse the Phage passive (Or Frozen Mallet if you got it), and keep pouncing away at them. Help the other lanes by ganking a bit, or by securing dragon since you have Wriggles. Don't be afraid to invade their jungle since you've got great escape potential. Just be sure your mid/jungle is watching your back in case all 5 come after you.
By this point you should have a decent amount of cs (100 ish if you're average at 20 minutes, 125-175 or maybe more if you've been doing great and are amazing at last hitting, and not denied too much. You'll have 234 if you NEVER MISSED A SINGLE CS by 20 minutes, but that's also if you've been spawn killing minions too and never gone back. Realistically if you've never missed a CS and you've had to go back, you'll be in the 150-200 if you're amazing at csing, 100-150 if you're good, and less than or around 100 if you're terrible or you've been seriously denied by say an Udyr, aggressive swain, or their jungler has ganked A LOT. Here's a great solomid resource for cs calculations IN A SINGLE LANE.
tl:dr, Your primary goals are the opposing tops tower, disrupting jungle, helping other lanes, securing dragon, and retaining map awareness by means of wards and traps (It's not just the supports job to ward you know).
The game is dragging on, now what do you do? Well, this is sort of where Nid starts being less influencial of the game. Sure your traps are going to be handy, and you'll still do a lot of damage, but the enemies are also getting pretty beefy now. You can't just go willy nilly into a fight and hope to get a pentakill (which you'll get most of in mid or mid-late game). With AD Nid you CAN carry Mid game, but you CANNOT carry late game, unless you're going 20-0 and the enemy is completely terrible, but any champ can do that.
At this point, take out the enemy stragglers, or if their jungler is still doing their path (For whatever reason), go for them. Your mission in late game is to secure single kills for your team, backdoor like crazy, take out the enemy carry in team fights, and steal enemy buffs so they can't utilize them against your own team. Keep traps up at major points near baron, dragon, and all buffs, as well as major routes.
Take towers when you can, primal surge your carry so they deal increased dps, or primal surge yourself with youmuus to be an effective anti-carry. Your role before a team fight erupts at this point is to poke, and heal. When the fighting starts, then you should give out one last poke and heal, trap below them (Don't laugh at that 40% armor and magic resist reduction, it does wonders), and go for their carry/protect your own. If you're doing more dps than your carry (which you shouldn't be, but if they suck or are behind...) then primal surge yourself in teamfights and at towers. Be aware that you'll be in cougar most of the time, so it may still be better to primal surge your carry, or keep it saved up for a clutch heal. Remember, judgment and reaction is everything at this point. The more you play, the better you'll be.
tl:dr, Back door and take towers, keep awareness of important areas, take out their carries, and protect your own. Try to keep primal surge off cooldown if you can help it, and have good judgment between using it on yourself, your carry, or for saving someone with it's heal.
Here's a fun video (even if it was staged). I really do think they need a Nyandalee Skin =/
And here's a link to the Nidalee Plentakill song (even if it's AP Nidalee biased, it was made a while ago.) which makes you play 20% better guaranteed.
Finding me on League of Legends (NA Server): Rzaney92 (I main AD carry so I don't get to play Nid too often, but when I do, I can generally dominate top lane. Yes I mixed up login name and username, oh well, you can handle seeing numbers at the end of a name.) I'm in the 1300s elo range, and I don't think I've ever gone negative of 1:1 with Nidalee to the best of my memory(But that could always change given the right circumstances, or have happened already...)
A Few Nid Games I've Done Can Be Seen Below
The server was pretty laggy on this one, but it was manageable nonetheless, because I had to play in it too, so they can't complain about doing bad due to lag. >.>
Side note: It's not ksing if i'm the one doing all the damage and playing carry. :D
(V) Here are some of my noob days where I still carried as Nid anyways. (V)
I can honestly say it was easier to carry with Nid back then...
I hope that you've taken the time to read this whole guide, and have changed your opinion about Nidalee. I spent plenty of time making this, and making sure it was visually appealing for the most part as well as detailed and descriptive. If you didn't read the end of the intro, then i'll restate it: please feel free to comment and offer suggestions on how to redo, or overall improve this guide and any future guides I may or may not make. Your active support and constructive criticism/hatred is welcomed as it helps me improve upon what's already there. If you have troubles with a champ and can give good reasons why, and they are NOT listed above, then feel free to comment and ask me to add it in.
Final Note: You can't "learn" Nidalee from anyone else. You have to learn her to fit your own playstyle. If you can't play Nidalee at all, then just don't try if it destroys any advantages you have in other roles to conform to her champion style. As always though, practice makes perfect, and good luck on the Fields of Justice.