Nidalee Build Guide by zildjianbob
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.
Welcome everyone to my first guide for league of legends. This is currently a work in progress so it may need improvements and suggestions are appreciated. I understand that some people may disagree with my thoughts and ideas, but please don't downvote just because you don't agree with my skill order. Instead tell me what you would prefer and why and I will consider it carefully. In this guide I will go very in-depth with strategy and tactics, so it may be longer than some of the other guides, but I will try my best to be interesting. If you find the guide helpful please drop an upvote, I would really appreciate it. This guide definitely needs pictures and such, suggestions are appreciated. Hopefully this guide will give you some new ideas as to ways of playing our favorite cougar Nidalee even if you have a different build, and you will enjoy your time out there on the Fields of Justice!
This build is designed to bring Nidalee through 3 stages over the course of the game as solo top or occasionally Midalee. First is the laning phase where I get a Guinsoo's Rageblade and Lucidity Boots, and use attack damage masteries and Guinsoo's in combination with the attack speed of Nidalee's Primal Surge to push the lane hard. I aim to take their first two turrets, then proceed to roam. This is the second phase where I get my Rabadon's and Lich Bane, and chase around the jungle like a Bau5 getting kills. Finally I get supplementary tanky and AP items for the late game to withstand all the damage so I can get in to the fight and use Nidalee's great cougar combo to destroy the squishies.
Pros / Cons
+ Insanely powerful mid game
+ Amazing chasing power and escaping ability
+ A massive damage Q spell with crazy range
+ Deadly burst damage on a single target
+ Spectacular sustain
+ One of the best pushers in the game
- Has to stay out of melee range unless chasing
- Hard decisions have to be made very quickly
- No CC at all
- Extremely mana hungry at early levels
- No AOE for running into the middle of a teamfight
- Requires a lot of attention
- Prowl: This passive doesn't show its true power until you have to chase or run away from an enemy quickly, when suddenly it can save your life or secure a kill. It gives you 15% bonus movement speed when you enter brush and persists for 2 seconds after you leave the bush as well. This makes moving quick a breeze in the jungle, and lets Nidalee escape from most ganks if used correctly.
- Javelin Toss / Takedown (Q): Wow, that's all I can really use to describe these 2 abilities, the damage they provide is phenomenal when properly used. Javelin Toss is what most people think of when someone says Nidalee and can kill enemies before they can do anything. It is a skill shot projectile that deals insane damage to enemies on a very short cooldown. The spear increases in damage the further Nidalee is from the target when the spear hits, to a maximum of 250% damage! This ability can zone enemies so hard and lets her get kills without taking a single hit. Takedown while in cougar form is a crippling ability while chasing, and secures any kill for Nidalee. It is a melee attack that deals more damage the less health the enemy has, and allows her to last hit and deal tons of burst damage at the end of her combo.
- Bushwhack / Pounce (W): Bushwhack is the most modest of Nidalee's abilities, but still can be extremely useful in the game. It is a trap that deals some magic damage over time, lowers an enemies armor and magic resist for 12 seconds, and also reveals them. It's like a mini Teemo mushroom, and can act as wards and helps with increasing Nidalee's damage output. Pounce is a short leap that allows Nidalee to leap in the direction she's facing on an extraordinarily short cooldown. She will also deal damage when she lands. This let's you jump over walls, close gaps, and dodge projectiles with amazing ease. If used skillfully this will drive your opponents insane!
- Primal Surge / Swipe (E): Primal surge is one of the most frustrating abilities to lane against, as it heals Nidalee for large amounts of health, and greatly increases her attack speed for 5 seconds, allowing her to destroy a turret in a single push with only a Guinsoo's for attack damage. It can also save your life when being chased, and allows you to survive and recover from attacks in record time. This ability has saved my life more times than I can count. Swipe is Nidalee's cone damage ability, and does superb damage in front of her. Combined with her combo she can remove half an opponent's health bar in less than a second.
- Aspect of the Cougar (R): This ability is one the coolest ults in LoL, and not just because Nidalee turns into a cat! This ability has a very short cooldown and no mana cost, so you can change your form at will! This lets you throw a spear and heal, then immediately transform and pounce on your enemy for one of the most vicious bursts around! Nidalee also gains movement speed, armor, and magic resist in cougar form, so she can push into enemies without instantly dying.
I know many of you probably saw the sequence in the overview and started raging in confusion and screaming "You broke the rules! You have to max 1 spell first! You broke the rules!" This is not misbehaving, it's thinking. Nidalee has 2 major requirements while in lane, her insane sustain/pushing power, and her psycho zoning ability. If either of these is compromised, she loses a lot of dominance over the opponent. For this reason I try to balance these equally, and therefore the skill order is more a play style decision.
Generally though, if in doubt, follow this rule of thumb. The better you are doing in lane the more you incline towards leveling your Q, and if you aren't doing so well lean on your E more. For instance, if you are against a Soraka solo top because the other team is stupid or weird (for all I know someone does that and stomps little children badly), max your Q first because they aren't going to hurt you much so you have room to hurt them, BAD. However, if you are playing a Master Yi who keeps Alpha Striking you and then getting a critical off before you pounce away, you will definitely need the sustain to brush off his attacks so you don't have to recall. Other than that just max your W last and take points in your ult whenever possible.
Ah runes, not my favorite part of LoL, but important all the same. This is one of my areas I don't have a ton of experience with, so I am very open to suggestions.
I take marks of insight because of the fact that as the game progresses the ability to penetrate the enemy defenses is much needed. This won't have much affect in the early game so this is more of a late game rune.
Seals of Resilience are my defensive runes because Nidalee needs that ability to retain health in the early game because she is relatively squishy. This rune becomes less important as the game progresses but is still very useful.
I use Glyphs of Force for obvious reasons, since this guide is for AP Nidalee. This is useful for her mid and late game, but also helps your javelin toss early game to make it a powerful damage dealer.
Finally I take Quintessences of Swiftness for their synergy with Nidalee. These make this extremely mobile champion impossible to catch and allow her to dodge otherwise deadly skillshots.
Of course choose runes to fit your playstyle, don't take something just because someone tells you to. If you don't mind getting a little beat up, trade the armor seals for magic resist or even AP if that's what makes you tick, fit how you play.
I'm going to keep this short. I go 21-0-9 to get all the AP masteries, I only am really concerned with defense later game so I avoid that, and I get the buff duration and mana in utility.
If you so desire 21-9-0 or 9-0-21 are also viable alternatives, remember to match how you play. I hate forcing people to do things. Try to at least have 9 in AP though.
My only final comment is to try to prioritize cooldown reduction and attack damage and speed in offense for early game farming and spammable cougar abilities, otherwise you may have trouble. Also the mana masteries in utility are extremely useful to help with mana problems early game.
Normally people now insert a massive number of item possibilities and builds, which bores me out of my mind, so I have put together a list of ten items that will make AP Nidalee able to adjust her build to the enemy team, but is still simple to remember.
Abyssal Scepter: The opposite of Zhonya's, this will give you AP as well, but is used if you are having problems with taking too much magic damage. The passive will also help you do more damage to them.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter: If you aren't taking too much damage this is another option for your finishing items. The slow will make you even better at chasing/escaping, the AP is natural, and the health makes sure you can still survive.
Warmog's Armor: One of your options for your final two items, this is if you don't need or can afford to get more AP and just need health to survive. Straightforward and efficient.
Guardian Angel: Final option for your build, this gives both armor and magic resist if you are receiving lots of damage from both genres, magic and physical. Don't buy if you can get away with more AP.
Void Staff: If you can't do enough damage because they have magic resist, get this, it'll help you do the damage you need. The extra AP is always helpful as well.
Very quickly, as this kind of thing is very much personal preference, but there are a few standouts.
Teleport: This is for when you are pushing. You have to go to base and get back fast, this lets you do that. It's a must for you when you are laning solo and pushing, which you are. You must take it!
Flash: This makes you practically ungankable with your speed and pounce already, they will be extraordinarily hard-pressed to kill you when this is up. It can also let you pursue in the jungle, so it is a great option for your second summoner spell. For the record, flash for joy is overrated when you can pounce :)
Ignite: Let's you secure a kill in lane, giving you gold and a useful lead. Personally I'm not very good with offensive summoner spells, but if you are it's a good choice.
These three spells are your best bets, so try not to do anything stupid and take clairvoyance or something. I'm not going to bother telling you what not to get, if you are going to do stupid stuff in a simple thing like this it's not my problem.
Now that we've got all the boring build stuff out of the way, we can get into all the nitty gritty strategy to playing AP Nidalee. I will tell you where to be, how to act, and how to properly use your abilities.
Using these tactics you will be able to win most engagements, and how to get the farm and kills for your team. These tips and tricks will help you become good at how to play Nidalee.
Early Game Tactics
Early game I find it much easier to not worry about champion kills so much and focus on farming and pushing like a winner should. When you first get into lane use your health potions along with your E to stay in lane for as long as possible, and just focus on last hitting and taking down the first 2 towers.
Use your spear and brush to zone the opponent hard to prevent them from getting CS and so you can get CS without worrying about them suddenly jumping you like Lee Sin. Look at the minions and see which enemy minions are being focused by yours. Guesstimate how long it will take for your minions to kill it, then when they are about to kill it, just hit it with one basic attack. Do not auto attack!!!. It's astounding how many games I've played where my lane mate just sits there auto attacking minions and how terrible their minion farm is late game. I always end up with the best CS out of anyone in most games because people are terrible at last hitting.
Rule: Only attack each minion twice, once when they have almost full health, once when your attack will kill them. This way if you miss the last hit like a true failure, you will at least get XP for it. My build has a very expensive first few items so it is essential to last hit better than everyone else.
While last hitting use brush to annoy the opponent and occasionally launch a spear to keep him away and scared. This gives you lane control and makes it obvious when a gank is about to happen because they will charge recklessly at you. Without a gank they will hide behind minions and stay back so you don't combo them. This is like an early warning system that also gives you lane control.
When your opponent decides to recall or go gank for whatever reason, you have to go into psycho push mode. Kill all the opposing minions and walk right up to the tower just behind your first minion. If your opponent has teleport you will probably only do a bit of damage, but if it's on cooldown you should be able to use the passive of your Guinsoo's and the attack speed from your E to wreck that tower's day. If you have a full wave of minions and full stacks on Guinsoo's you should be able to take the tower in a single push, just attack the tower like an insane person and ignore everything else. Constantly use your E for the attack speed, even if you are full health. If you didn't take the tower first wave, repeat until the lane is yours.
Final thing early game, don't roam! Ignore enemy lanes and just farm and push, dodging ganks when they come. This will let your team have a great advantage by 20 minutes, so OP mid-game Nidalee will have even more power.
Mid Game Tactics
Hopefully by now the two opposing towers in your lane should be destroyed, and now you get to be the jungle creature you were born to be. As soon as that second tower is pushed, recall, and hopefully you will be around your Rabadon's Deathcap and will have great AP. Buy lots of wards, and run into the jungle, placing wards in a few special places so you can find and hunt down the enemy players who dare to leave their lane (more info on wards later).
This stage of the game should be where the opponent begins to hate your guts, unable to travel through the jungle without being pounced on and slaughtered. If the jungle is free of players farm enemy camps and chuck spears through walls at squishies in their lane. If they attack then run, and jump them if they venture too deep.
Late Game Tactics
As the game goes into the really late stages, it's important to be able to survive long enough to do the damage you need. The defense items help with that, and allow you to pounce into a group of enemies and burst them quickly. After you do that insane damage, pounce away as fast as you can and shoot some spears for joy.
Late game is basically a combination of pushing and roaming, then pouncing in to team fights after the opponents have targeted someone else! this makes sure they don't focus and destroy you quickly. If they switch to attacking you, pounce out A.S.A.P. so you don't die. If you can't go in to a team fight for fear of getting slaughtered, just heal and throw spears from some random place in the jungle where the opponents can't get to you quickly, then as their spells are used and health decreased, strike again, killing them one by one with your cougar combo. You should win the teamfight if you do this, even if a lot of your team has died.
Finally, late game, make sure to heal up weakened team members, ward, and pounce to travel around extraordinarily fast. It is very fun to kill people with spears late game, so please, take a break from intensity and have fun removing tons of health in an instant.
Here I keep some excellent replays for Nidalee. Send me your own replays if it demonstrates at least one of the following things.
-Insane minion farm
-Domination (must have at least 10 kills)
Video 1: Domination, a couple nice escapes, good map control, and pretty high minion farm.
Uses LoLReplay, search zildjianbob-Nidalee 13-1-8 game to find it.
Video 2: Jumping and warding guide. Search zildjianbob-Nidalee pounce and wards.
If Nidalee is played well, no one can do this better for a long time. Her 2 second pounce let's her tear through the jungle like she can pass through walls.
When chasing a player down, spam pounce as fast as it will let you to catch up, and if they flash or otherwise travel over walls, find the nearest thin wall that Nidalee can jump, and pounce over. Also cut corners like the ledges near the river to gain ground, and if you still can't catch them but they are low health, use your ult and guess where they are going and let your spear fly. Generally they won't expect it and you can get the kill if you are good, but if you miss you can always return to cougar and leap some walls towards their base and try to surprise intercept them. You can never pounce enough.
When escaping try to save your pounce for when they try to CC you with a skillshot, then leap out of the way. If you are too slow to just pounce away in lane, quickly try a leap into the jungle, but only if you are sure you can make the jump. If you miss you are almost always screwed. Use sudden turns and brush, and make sure to use fog of war to do unexpected tricks to leap away. One final trick, if you do get ganked unexpectedly, try leaping over minions to create a quick barrier between you and any skillshots like Amumu's Bandage Toss. Once again you can never pounce enough.
Epic Map Control
WARDS!!!!! Please buy at least a few during the course of a game, it can tell you when they are taking dragon, going mid, or trying to steal your blue buff, which you should take whenever your other AP champions don't need it. I've had games where a single enemy would suddenly run in on our team taking Baron and we would instantly slaughter him because he didn't know what was happening in that area. Don't be blind like Lee Sin and buy wards!
If you can see what's happening on the map, you can catch enemies who appear, so find the shortest route to where they are going all alone and teach them who owns that jungle. Imagine wards are spy cams, and they let you see inappropriate stuff. Maybe that will help some perverts out there realize just how valuable they are.
Final tip for this section is to travel with a buddy if possible. You are like a violent child with a gun, but if two thugs come at you, you'll want your bodyguard there to help. Try to have someone with decent health nearby when you are venturing into unknown territory, you never know when a few nasty carries will jump out of a bush. Why do you think there's a washroom buddy system in elementary school(JK)!?
Once Nidalee has her ult up, she is able to annihilate minion waves with ease, using a pounce and swipe combo. This is part of what makes her such a good pusher, so please take a chill pill and use ten spare seconds to clear a minion wave instead of wandering aimlessly searching for a champion in the jungle.
There is a very quick way to farm a full wave of creeps without missing one, so here it is: Start by letting the minions aggro and bunch up in their respective bunches, casters, melee, and cannon minions. Now pounce onto the caster and cannon minions, then swipe to instantly kill the casters and use takedown on the cannon minion to finish it. Now turn and pounce on the melee minions, then swipe again as soon as its up. If you have more AP that will kill them, but early game you will have to auto-attack each one at least once, so do that while you are waiting for your swipe, and takedown any remaining minions. Always use takedown last while farming anything, as it does more damage the less health the target has.
When getting blue/red/dragon try to start with a pounce, swipe, pounce, pounce, swipe, pounce sequence to fit your cooldowns, and remember pounce does damage where you land, not what you jump over. Then use takedown if you want, or save it. For high health minions like dragon, turn to human form and throw a spear and heal to increase damage output.
If your team doesn't mind always secure kills with takedown.
Quick! Dodge :)
One of the most potent spells in the game, this skill requires great prediction and accuracy skills but can instantly kill unsuspecting enemies and cause havoc during a team fight if suddenly the AD or AP carry's health is halved and they have to retreat. Finally this gives you one of the largest control zones of any character, and will keep the enemy on their toes and away from you.
Chucking spears is a difficult task, and requires a lot of guesswork, but it is so satisfying when you hit. A very good Nidalee should be able to connect with the target at least 40% of the time, and won't use them unnecessarily. Early game this skill is like a grenade with a tiny range, you only have a few, it's hard to connect with the enemy, and taking too long to prepare a shot is very detrimental (means harmful) to you.
To aim a spear, first give a guess as to where the opponent is going to go in the next couple seconds. Are they pacing while waiting for farm? Are they moving away to recall? Are they about to run off into the jungle? Decide where they will most likely be and give yourself just over a second of travel time for your spear. The rule of thumb when shooting long range spears is to aim at where the enemy will be in around 1.25 seconds when you fire.
1. Do this once or twice early game, and it will help. Hit the enemy champion in your lane with a spear at full range for maximum damage. This will make them fear it, so you can get more space for farming because they will be too scared of your damage to advance on you. This is perfect for zoning as a fear tactic.
2. When an enemy is very low on health and running/recalling, shoot one kill spear to try to finish them if you can't pounce on them. This can get you so many kills during the game without having to tower dive or flash, so it is an invaluable tool. If you miss let them get away unless you are 100% sure you can kill them with another or pouncing. Overextending players don't generally have very good luck.
3. Hit players while ganking mid-game. If you have a teammate with stun but little DPS, shoot one of these just before the stun to give them an easier kill. Once I played a Kennen who had never played a Nidalee before, and I got free kills by shooting a spear from the jungle when he was low health because he liked to stand still. This is when people develop a loathing for you, so be careful.
4. While on the sidelines of a teamfight. Since you sometimes can't directly enter a fight, shoot spears randomly into tightly bunched enemies while they are to busy with your allies to notice. Squishy enemies won't know how they suddenly died, and tanks will rage when they have to retreat because they lost a quarter of their health.
If you aim right and use appropriately, your spear will become the most hated weapon of your opponents. It also makes her extraordinarily fun to play against friends in the same place as you. The sound of rage is a wonderful thing ;)
It's a Trap!
I'm terrible at this, it's probably my biggest downfall because a almost never use it in-game. I slap myself silly over this but I still haven't gotten it into my head, but hopefully I'm close.
The reason I don't generally use these is because I prefer to use mana for spears and healing, not traps. However, if you are getting ganked a lot or have mana to spare, these can be very useful. Place them in common ganking bushes in your lane, and sometimes in the jungle like wards, for instance by Baron. It will reveal the targets so you can see them and will make them vulnerable to offensive play. This can give you time to retreat if ganked, and know when the opposing team is trying for Baron. It can even grab a kill on a very low health opponent!
One final trick with this skill is to place it under creeps to lower their defenses. This lets you take Baron faster than otherwise.
Tis' Only a Flesh Wound
The same goes for yourself when using. This has saved me countless times, and tricks my opponents into fighting me and have me suddenly gain 500 HP and kill them. If possible don't use until after an ignite or Miss Fortune's Impure Shots has worn off so you don't get reduced healing. Of course if you will die otherwise use it anyway as it can still heal enough to save you.
Finally, while pushing and using this effect, if an enemy attacks you, remember to throw a few auto attacks at them to get some extra attacks in using this effect to increase your damage output.
Transfiguration is a Wonderful Thing
One of the coolest abilities in LoL, turning into a cougar every 3 seconds isn't very common in people. Managing this ability to maximize your damage is crucial during a game, so here are some guidelines as to when to change. Remember that you can do this transformation amazingly fast, so don't worry about doing it ahead of time.
1.To dodge a skillshot. Change into cougar and pounce somewhere fun that won't get you killed. This is very useful since it saves your life.
2.To chase a runaway down. If you are about to follow someone into the jungle, go cougar to catch up.
3.To heal if you are about to die. If you want to live, it's better to be a human so you can gain health. This is also worthwhile to save allies. You are less likely to get caught than them, so at least give them a fighting chance.
4.To kill an enemy who thinks towers are all powerful. Become a human then Q! Then laugh in chat when they die.
5.To brawl. It's better to be a cougar when in melee range by a long shot, so do it!
6.To save an ally. Embrace the cougar and pounce in the way of champions and skillshots advancing on a weak friend. You know Caitlyn won't be happy when her ult hits you instead :)
7.For lolz. Trust me, the animation is cool and the distraction can be amusing when an enemy stops to watch (no promises though).
Cougar Nidalee has one of the fastest, most available, and best bursts in the game. This is basically just a pounce into swipe into takedown, but it is so potent because of how often you can do it, around 3 times every ten seconds. Not pleasant to hear that it closes gaps as well if you're an enemy.
Using this W-E-Q combo is super easy to use, and is based on simple logic. Close the gap to get in melee range while doing damage-Deal heavy damage quickly to stay in melee range-Finish with the spell that does more damage when other spells are used first.
Since you can perform this every time your swipe finishes its cooldown (around 5 to 4 seconds, depending on your cooldown reduction), an average enemy will only get to run around a max of 10 seconds before they are killed (if you keep up by continuing to pounce). My guesstimate is that this combo deals out around 400-1000 damage each time without resist, so you can easily destroy health bars if an enemy wanders too close in lane.
Final tip is that a low health enemy (around 500 health) will still die to only a pounce and takedown if you don't feel like waiting for your E.
Pounce for Joy
Such a great mobility ability (it rhymes!!!) that I wanted to discuss its use. Generally you want to use this whenever you want to get around quickly, so spam! Remember that it doesn't cost anything for cougar abilities, so feel free to use all the time. Refer to replays for which walls you can pounce over, but remember that some of these are hard to perform quickly so try to stick to the easier ones in game.
Team Fight Strategy
This is why some people have trouble with Nidalee, since these situations pose a difficult question, spears or combo? First let's get an idea of the two stratgies.
1. The enemy team is taunted/disabled.
2. There are 2 or less enemies in the target area.
3. Most of the opponents have little health left.
4. Most of the enemy team is committed to focusing someone else.
5. All of the major enemy abilities are on cooldown.
If at least 2 criteria are met, it should be relatively safe to attack with the Combo method, but be cautious! It'll suck if you die for no reason as your team's best hunter.
I'm just going to sum up what you should be doing at each step of the game here, then we're done! You can breathe out because all the thinking is over!
1. Lane early game, push and farm, ignore everything except ganks.
2. Once you've taken at least the 1st tower, roam the jungle with wards and kill enemies who dare to travel alone.
3. Engage in team fights, push lanes that need to be pushed, catch single enemies.
4. Push into their base and win!
5. Have fun!
Thanks For Viewing My Guide!
Thank you very much for taking time to read this guide on playing AP Nidalee, and I hope you've learned at least something to help you in-game to become a better gamer! Some of these skills are also transferable to other champions, so remember these tips and tricks for whoever you play, even if Nidalee isn't your type. And remember the most important thing, have fun! Also if you are having a terrible game just enjoy the cool plays you make, even if you still have a score of 2-12-4. My final comment is to say, don't be a pain to play with, people don't like in-game whiners or noob-haters. Try to be supportive, or at least channel your anger in a constructive way, so your stupid team can improve, not just hate you.
Special thanks to EF crazieshado for introducing me to LoL and teaching me when I started. Check out his awesome Jarvan IV guide on this site if you are interested, and respect the pros. Also thanks to kstarek who is now banned, but showed me how not to be a team player :) Finally a shout-out to pablo911 who endured my trolling of him :) No hard feelings!
Leave an upvote if you liked the guide and thanks so much!