Nidalee Build Guide by insideClaw
Not Updated For Current Season
Not Updated For Current Season
Hi, and thanks for checking out my guide! Nidalee has been the champion I love ever since I started playing her in Season 1.
I consider the S4 rework the best thing that has happened to Nida, as I think she is more interesting and challenging than ever - what other predator has 3 reset mechanics in their kit?
This guide is intended for players of different skill level, who have some grasp of Nidalee's skills as well as some general game knowledge, and are excited about mastering her - or simply experienced players who might find a detail they hadn't known or discover a unique build to play her with. I will try to explain details that are uncommon and I feel can use going over - such as the build that I find very engaging and unique and will give tips and tricks from my experience gathered from playing Nidalee throughout several ranked seasons.
Please note that I use shift and deshift as synonymous to using Aspect Of The Cougar to shapeshift into cougar and back to human, respectively.
The guide is meant to be less of an exhaustive guide with crunching numbers and explanations for every single thing, but a practical handbook describing the satisfying intricacies of playing our favourite cat-lady.
Quint of Attack Damage - As a very AA-heavy poking champion who has AD scaling on her execute ability as well as ATK speed spell, these are a very solid choice.
9x Greater Mark of Hybrid Penetration Mark of Hybrid Penetration - As Nidalee deals mixed damage between her autoattacks and her spells, these are very good. You can use marks of flat AD, but penetration is a stat you won't usually have on Nida outside of runes+masteries, while AD is.
9x / Seal of Armor/Scaling Health - versus almost every AD toplaner you want flat armor, as you are likely to be engaging in fights quite early. Especially valuable if the jungler also deals attack damage, while also helping versus minion and turret damage.
Alternatively, if you don't expect early AD threat, go for Scaling Health, which are currently one of the best runes in the game and give Nida very good mid-game.
9x / Glyph of Scaling/Flat Magic Resist - Chances are you won't experience magic damage until midgame, so these MR/level allows you to have some mitigation against, say trigger-happy cat-hating midlaner.
On the off-chance you face a lot of early magic damage in top lane, go for flat MR, which coupled with your Primal Surge will allow you to persist through the usually poke of AP champions.
I recommend 21-9-0, as that gives her the offensive power she needs, while having some defensive benefits.
Nidalee is often prone to jumping in cat form for a finisher, and that is mostly where she eats the retaliation damage - as melee. I believe she gets a good deal out of this point, but feel free to swap it for a bit more attack speed in Fury .
+ As a hybrid damager, Spell+Blade Weaving is of great benefit.
Devastating Strikes is a purrfect match for Nidalee - she doesn't have the luxury of any penetration in items and she utilizes both types of it quite well.
As she is a character naturally drawn towards Dangerous Game, I value this one point very highly - she is likely to go in for that execute, very often on low health and it often means the difference between life and death - maybe even provide enough health + mana for Primal Surge to survive that pesky ignite.
Doran's blade is almost always the best choice on Nidalee, as it gives her the ability to poke effectively at the first levels, while the bonus max health allows for early kill attempts, as well as providing safety in case a girl with remains of a sword tries to stab you with pointy bits at level 2.
Trinity Force is the well known item that gives her a huge spike of power. Try to get this ASAP even slightly behind in lane, as the tremendous spike it gives can compensate. You can get the Sheen as the first part, but I prefer Phage as you can often straight off kill your opponent with the chasing power and damage it provides.
/ Ninja Tabi are generally the choice in top lane, for they provide duelling power and later on, protection from the AD carry. Alternatively, if facing predominantly magic damage in top+jungle, you can get Mercury.
Guinsoo's Rageblade - an underappreciated item I believe it is a very suitable second major choice on Nidalee. Here's why:
- I believe Nidalee can afford to go for it as second item under most circumstances, as her splitpushing coupled with the threat she brings to the fight from having high damage and mobility is what makes her scary. She has enough tools to not need a defensive second item to function.
- This item gives her a second item spike and the much needed damage to continue being able to obliterate people by herself.
- Nida can keep the stacks fully up permanently because of her Pounce, benefiting from its stacking effect the most.
- While it is mostly an offensive item, with the AP, AD and AS it usually gives, as soon as your health falls below 50%, you gain sustain and dueling power. You can easily catch people off guard and allow yourself some frivolities, like going in for that tasty Hunted kill while being able to cover that with the health you are getting back. And that bonus is not going away until you are safe.
- Notice that this item does not have a maximum duration for the enraged effect - once you trigger it you can heal/lifesteal/spellvamp back to full and as long as you keep attacking you can have the effect.
- Looks very cool coupled with Bloodthirster - once both are procced, you are a giant bloodthirsty red glowing cat that treats everything it sees as prey. Add Triforce to that and you are a very scary christmas tree.
Frozen Heart - The armor, CDR and mana provided by the Glacial Shroud component are very valuable, as you don't have almost any up to now. Especially useful to get when the opponent relies on attack speed.
Banshee's Veil - Covers you on magic resist and provides your first encounter of very useful health. The spell shield effect keeps your fur safe from random stuns that could result in a quick demise. Especially important versus one-trick ponies and anything that can be your death sentence.
Bloodthirster - Apart from giving you more offense, duelling power and sustain, the overheal works well with the resistances you have. Sometimes I get this after Guinsoo, if I feel confident opponents don't have any big threats.
Guardian Angel - A good all-rounder in terms of stats, and the self-revive can turn a battle. Sometimes when I have a good advantage I get this instead of the previous two items, as it can make sure that even if you slip up or get focused with several people, you come back and finish the job and get away safely.
Early game & transition
- How likely is it that the jungler is trying to gank me? Do I have the tools to escape if he does? Can I place a trinket/ward before I jump to the enemy's face? If their jungler is likely to gank early, is it worth really shifting and going to melee range just for some extra poke?
- Usually the jungler won't be near you by level 2, but at that time you should start considering how much you can overextend yourself. If he has been seen somewhere else on the map, unleash all the cat your opponent is likely to receive well.
- Is the opponent stronger than me the first levels? Can he retaliate to my poke or all-in to kill me? Land only as much poke as you consider safe and be careful of the opponent getting level 2 before you.
- With most match-ups Nidalee has the upper hand early game. You want to try to establish good control and poking - as long as you believe it to be safe from the jungler. In the rare occasions you cannot afford to be aggressive, you can get Primal Surge at level 1 instead of the usual Q+W, in order to sustain and play safe the first levels.
- Try to punish the opponent for every last hit they go for. Autoattack opponent every time you can do that without missing CS and when the opponent has to either take free damage or lose CS. Entering brush triggers your Prowl, which allows you to often land free autoattacks - every time you enter brush, minions lose sight of you and stop harassing you.
- If the opponent is melee or a ranged who you can surprise with running up to him,
try to use Javelin Toss into a Takedown - - level 1 QQ is certainly something your opponent will not shrug off easily. If you do that, especially with some AA poke, you will be in a very good position to kill him as soon as you level up.
- Keep in mind Primal Surge is the main skill you should be spending your mana on, ideally to both regain health and use the attack speed boost to autoattack the enemy. Usually you would only use Javelin Toss when you can follow with AA's, especially if you feel confident you can follow up by pouncing on the Hunted target to end the trade or kill. As long as don't overuse traps and javelin tosses, you shouldn't run out of mana as top Nidalee.
- If you have some harass done to your opponent when you hit level 2, you can come out of a brush with some AA's into , then a couple more autos followed by > > . Even with TP as summoner spell, that's often enough for first blood.
- If there's no opportunity to kill the enemy, that's fine. If you can be up on CS, and maybe force him out of lane, that's almost as good.
Remember, you have Teleport, if you have your lane under control, you can always net yourself several good kills on another point in the map - as long as you keep an eye on the fights happening.
- Nidalee's transition after early game defines her as a splitpusher who tries to keep the pressure on her lane, while occasionally roaming/teleporting to secure kills/objectives. If no opportunity for such diversity arises,
Primal Surge allows you to be a big threat to any turret, while your two item spikes
& allow you have control over skirmishes and enemy jungle.
- Having Teleport while continuing to apply pressure to top lane allows your team to have a solid objective control over drake - if needed, tell that to your team!
- Later on, when Baron is the focus, you can splitpush bot lane so that your team can pressure at Baron. However, if they have a person who can 1v1 you, especially if they have Teleport, it can be a risky move, so pick your timing well. That works better if your team picks are champions with disengages, so that if the enemy does bruteforce a teamfight, they are at a disadvantage to begin with.
- Keep in mind splitpushing sometimes doesn't work as well in lower tiers, as people tend to attack everything that moves, but as Nida generally avoids non-extended 5v5 teamfights, it's still a good option - especially if you coordinate that with your team using chat & pings.
Tips and tricks
Here is my collection of tips ranging from general mechanic usage to particular curious cases -
just when you were wondering how to Cat better.
- Having the biggest number of reset mechanics in one champion in the game, it can be a bit confusing, even after reading the spells. In short, one is used when chasing to catch up, one is used to farm and go away after a kill and one is used for having cat form available as often as needed. You can see all three of them (if you watch closely) used in the following short chase video I recorded. Nothing too extraordinary, but it shows a fluid execution of Nidalee's skills, seamlessly utilizing all three reset mechanics.
- The most used of the 3 reset mechanics is definitely the Pounce resetting to 0.5 sec on an unit kill. Use this when chasing or escaping - finish off a minion to be able to continue pouncing. Generally you can easily get two resets off a minion wave an enemy is escaping through, as long as you have at least your triforce. A neat little trick is that you can autoattack in human form, and before the autoattack lands, use R into Pounce - you get the Pounce reset once the minion dies.
- Something I've that is a core concept in securing kills and I've recommended numerous times - wait out your important ability. In Nida's case, autoattack several times and let the opponent dance around the yet-to-be-used Javelin Toss. When he can no longer afford to lose distance and has to either run in a straight line or die, then you hit your spear.
- If you are used to pre-rework Nidalee, that's a tough one to get used to. Do not Pounce, deshift and throw a spear, unless you are at Swipe range - you'll be stuck without a Pounce to use even though you get the form transformation reset from triggering Prowl's Hunted effect. Ideally you want that spear to be a spear of certain death, and not a spear of 'I run slightly faster'. So next time somebody is running away, try to remain several seconds in human after deshifting before throwing that spear, if you have the chance - which is usually the case if you are in autoattack range.
Of course, there are exceptions, like if you >deshift>>shift> >, but it takes some getting used to for pulling off things like that neatly.
- This tip is a bit more technical and even very good Nidalee players might not know about it - you can have your Sheen effect damage dealt as either magic or physical. If you autoattack in any form with the Sheen effect up, it's dealt as said in the tooltip - physical. But if you consume it on a Takedown, the whole attack including the Sheen damage, is dealt as magic. I have personally tested with a friend to prove it works like that, and while you generally don't/can't think about it, maybe it will make you proc your next Sheen effect on Takedown in order to deal visible damage to that Rammus trying to have you kill yourself.
- Animation cancelling very useful on Nida, as she has many skills to use between autoattacks, plus an autoattack reset in Takedown. Generally that's a thing you get with practice, but generally try to not have the full animation of attacks - I barely get to see what a full cougar Q looks like, as skills like that allow you to act almost immediately after using them.
- Lastly, something more general but very helpful, especially with her Javelin Toss - I have personally found that binding every ability on smartcast for the default QWER buttons works really well, if you bind the non-smartcast ones on Shift+QWER.
Setting keybindings in this way allows you to estimate your skillshot with the indicator for a snipe, while retaining the efficiency of smart-cast while in the middle of a fight - you could not possibly deshift> Javelin Toss>shift> Takedown as fast if you have to click to confirm your sure-to-hit point blank spear.
There are many paths a Nidalee can take. The one I have described is what I found as my favourite way to play this versatile champion, but is by no means the only one.
Nidalee is a character that you learn more and more how to play every time - after several seasons of playing her to Diamond, I'm still surprised by little details she has to offer. Hopefully you found this guide useful and will enjoy playing her as much as I do - and good luck hunting down every prey top lane & your surroundings provide!