Build Guide by Samurai Squash
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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.
Full disclosure: This is my first guide, and I certainly don't claim to be an expert Nidalee player, though I consider myself a substantially competent one. Constructive criticism is always appreciated. Some information or sections you think I need to add? Please let me know!
Concrete skill info came from the wiki: http://leagueoflegends.wikia.com/wiki/Nidalee
When I first picked Nidalee up, I struggled with her for a long time. She's tough to play, and I was quickly discouraged. It didn't help that I never found a build for her that really struck a chord with me. For other champions I've played, they were well-represented with complete, comprehensive guides that I found really helpful and enjoyed following. Not so for Nidalee. This is why I decided to make a build of my own after I really got the hang of playing this beautiful Beastial Huntress. It's a mash-up and spin-off of my favourite parts of the few decent builds I've seen, with my own strategies and tweaks. Nidalee is a unique, challenging, and incredibly rewarding champion to play. She is by far my favourite, and I think she deserves a little love. I hope my passion for playing her comes through in this guide.
I'll try and update as often as I can. I always read patch notes so if something about Nidalee changes, I'll be sure to adjust my guide.
I would also like to apologize for the wall of text. I tried to break it up as much as possible, but I know it still looks like a lot to read. I swear, it's all valuable information.
There is a copy of this guide on Leaguecraft.com that's a little bit easier on the eyes, and has info on laning. I'll probably be updating that one more often.
Moving through the brush increases Nidalee's movement speed by 15% for 2 seconds
This is one of the aspects of Nidalee that make her so good at chasing, fleeing, and just generally moving around the map. You're going to want to know where all the nearest patches of brush are so you can make a calculated escape or kill when the opportunity arises. This in combination with Aspect of the Cougar and Pounce will make you nearly un-catch-able, and un-escape-able.
You own the brush. Don't forget that.
Javelin Toss / Takedown:
(Human) Nidalee tosses her javelin, dealing magic damage on impact (deals up to 250% damage the further away the target is)
Magic Damage: 55 / 95 / 140 / 185 / 230 (+0.65 per ability power)
One of my personal favourite skills. It is THE most difficult non-ultimate skill shot to land, but when you get that perfect hit at the very end of its range and kill that squishy little Tristana hiding behind her tower, it's incredibly satisfying. It's worth doing a number of practice games to really learn the limits of this skill.
(Cougar) Nidalee's next attack deals additional damage based on how low her opponent's life is (up to 200%)
Additional Damage: 40 / 70 / 100
The end of your cougar-combo. Someone's looking a little low out in the middle of their lane? Pounce, Swipe, Takedown, repeat until dead.
Bushwhack / Pounce:
(Human) Nidalee lays a trap that deals damage over 2 seconds, reveals the target, and reduces their armor and magic resistance for 12 seconds. Traps last for 4 minutes.
Damage: 80 / 125 / 170 / 215 / 260 (+0.4 per ability power)
Armor & Resistance Reduction: 20 / 25 / 30 / 35 / 40 %
This is your lowest priority skill for leveling up. The most important part of this skill is the revealing component, and that's the same at all levels. This is a great skill when you're laning against stealthing opponents, or there's just a stealther on the other team. In your lane, pepper the ground with traps if you've got the mana for it. At the least, you will severely impair their mobility in the lane, and you won't have to worry about getting hit from behind. If they step on one a little too far from their lane mate, you can destroy them. Stealthers are notoriously glassy, and being revealed makes them pretty useless. You can also use the traps to help out stealthers on your team by revealing and destroying enemy wards.
It's also a great skill for keeping Teemo's Noxious Traps in check. If you see him drop one, trap it and kill it. Use your traps to check the brush for the 'shrooms as well. Like I said, you own the brush. Don't let that fruity little boyscout soil your territory.
Invisible units aside, it's a great early warning system. Put traps in the brush just outside of your lane. You may not see the enemy coming a mile away, but it could give you enough time to switch into cougar and make your escape if a gank seems imminent.
(Cougar) Nidalee lunges forward, dealing magic damage to surrounding enemies.
Magic Damage: 125 / 175 / 225 (+0.4 per ability power)
A great skill for chasing, escaping, and farming. It's basically a Flash with an added AOE and a three second cooldown. You can't Pounce through every wall in the jungle, and I don't claim to know every pounce-able obstacle, but some key ones are the Dragon camp walls, Baron Nashor's camp walls, and the ledges alongside the river. Most of the thinner outer jungle walls are also able to be pounced through. It can be tricky to line yourself up properly to Pounce over these areas though, so try and get the hang of them before feeling like they're guaranteed escape routes.
Something important to remember: you will Pounce in the direction you are facing when you use the ability, not necessarily in the direction of your mouse pointer. This can ruin many an escape if you're not paying attention.
Something interesting to note: You can pounce through the walls of Veigar's Event Horizon. You may also be able to Pounce through Anivia's Crystallize, but I've yet to try it. I'll update when I know.
Primal Surge / Swipe:
(Human) Nidalee heals an ally champion and grants them attack speed for 8 seconds.
Healing: 50 / 90 / 120 / 150 / 180 (+1.25 per ability power)
Attack Speed: 20 / 30 / 40 / 50 / 60 %
Your highest priority skill for leveling up (other than Aspect of the Cougar, of course). The reason is, early game, your priority is keeping you and your lane mate in the lane, getting gold and experience. The kills with Javelin Toss can wait for now. The attack speed bonus is also great for keeping creep waves under control early game, and pushing those first few towers. Also, if your heal isn't leveled up as you and your team gain levels, the amount it heals for will become negligible pretty fast. It's an important skill for helping your team. Use it right, and watch your number of assists skyrocket. Who knew a carry could be such a team player too?
(Cougar) Nidalee claws at enemies in front of her.
Magic Damage: 150 / 225 / 300 (+0.2 per ability power)
Great in combination with Pounce for fast farming. You can quickly demolish creep waves by pouncing into them and swiping at the densest area.
Aspect of the Cougar:
Nidalee transforms herself into a cougar, gaining a new set of abilities and 20 movement speed in the process. Nidalee transforms herself back into a human, regaining her set of abilities and losing 20 movement speed in the process.
The heart and soul of Nidalee. This is the form you want to be in if there is somewhere you need to be. Whether that be in melee range of a fleeing enemy, back behind your nearest tower, or just on the other side of the map for that team fight that's starting up. This form combined with her passive make Nidalee incredibly mobile. It's great for ganking or being there to support your team when they need you. It's also good for intimidating your opponents early in the laning process. There are a number of times I've switched into cougar just to try and get some creep kills and my opposing lane mates have backed right up. This won't work forever though, so you either need to stop relying on intimidation later on, or kill them in cougar to keep the intimidation going.
Because you switch between ranged and melee and exchange abilities when you use Aspect of the Cougar, it's like you're playing two different champions. If you've never played either a melee champion or a ranged champion before, it will be hard for you to adjust to using both forms; and to be effective with Nidalee, you NEED to be comfortable with both. You have to be able to know the strengths and weaknesses of each aspect, as well as when to use them.
For my summoner abilities I like to take Clarity and Exhaust.
Regardless of how smart you are with your mana early in the laning process, you will almost always run into mana problems until you get your Archangel's Staff. I like to use Clarity to make sure I've always got the ability to heal myself and harass often.
I like to take Exhaust for a few reasons:
-To stack it with my traps and destroy my opponents armor/magic resist
-To make chasing and escaping just a little bit easier
-To heavily disable an enemy DPS that's causing problems
-To save myself from an enemy when I've gotten in a bit too deep
I always consider summoner abilities a matter of personal preference. You may find that you never run into issues with your mana, and would have no use for Clarity. Maybe you prefer the extra damage of Ignite to the disabling power of Exhaust. That's fine. These are just the abilities I like to use. There are a few however, that I would never take:
Heal - You have a great heal of your own. You shouldn't need anything more.
Flash - Pounce is like a built-in Flash with a significantly shorter cooldown and an AOE on the end of it. You don't need Flash; fill this slot with something useful.
Smite - This is more beneficial to junglers who start at level 1. You shouldn't be doing much (if any) jungling until you've reached level 6, and at that point, no minions other than Dragon and Baron pose any kind of threat to you.
Clairvoyance - Your traps should provide enough enemy visibility. While this can be a good summoner ability to have on a team, it shouldn't be your responsibility.
Fortify - This is an ability for a tank to have. You need more aggressive summoner abilities.
Rally - There's a reason you never see anyone with this ability. It's not useful enough.
Revive - No. Just no. Not ever. Not on any champion.
For masteries, I go with 9/0/21:
1/1 Cripple - 3/3 Archmage's Savvy
1/1 Archaic Knowledge
1/3 Good Hands - 3/3 Perseverance
4/4 Expanded Mind
1/1 Greed - 3/3 Meditation - 2/2 Utility Mastery
1/1 Presence of the Master
Cripple in combination with your traps will ruin the magic resist and armor of an individual opponent. In one-on-one, it's a devastating tactic. Combined with your magic penetration runes, your opponent should be running for the hills. Which isn't a problem, since you're the fastest thing on four legs and can (hopefully) throw a javelin with deadly accuracy.
Speaking of fast, it's important to hit Quickness on the utility tree for that little extra speed boost. You can put the Greed point somewhere else if you'd like, or maybe fill out Good Hands with the points from Utility Mastery. Mana and mana regeneration are important though, so keep those points where they are.
9x Greater Mark of Insight
9x Greater Seal of Evasion
9x Greater Glyph of Focus
3x Greater Quintessence of Insight
The magic penetration is important to give your Javelin Toss and cougar abilities that little extra bite. Cooldown reduction is pretty standard for casters, but it's not integral to this build so feel free to put whatever you want in there. Maybe more magic pen.? As far as seals go, dodge chance is, in my opinion, the best kind to get. Think of it as taking about 7% less damage. I'd recommend keeping those runes the same.
Start with a Sapphire Crystal to give that little extra mana boost you'll need for healing and harassing early on. You'll want to take a Mana Potion and a Health Potion as well, also to keep you from having mana problems. Try to stay in the lane until you've reached level 6 and have 1185 gold which will enable you to buy your Sheen and Boots of Speed before morphing into cougar form and rapidly pouncing back to your lane. If you can manage it, stay in the lane until you have 1835 gold, and you can pick up your Sheen and Boots of Mobility to make it back into your lane in record time. After that, just recall and buy whenever you've got the gold.
Things to note:
It can be a good idea to buy your boots based on the enemy team. I go with Boots of Mobility to increase my ability to get around the map and jungle quickly, but there are a couple of situations where a different pair might be better.
-It's an all-physical team. Buy Ninja Tabi for the armor and extra dodge.
-It's a team with a lot of stuns, slows, etc. Buy Mercury's Treads for obvious reasons.
-You hate Boots of Mobility. Buy Boots of Swiftness.
-You're a ***** for magic penetration. Buy Sorcerer's Shoes.
In general though, Boots of Mobility are your best bet.
If you find that you're doing fine at staying alive, but you never seem to get a good initiation opportunity and/or you're still having mana problems even after getting your Archangel's Staff, buy a Deathfire Grasp rather than Rylai's Crystal Scepter.
At the end of this build, your Primal Surge will be restoring over 900 health, and your Javelin Toss should be doing about 600 damage point-blank and 1500 damage at the end of it's range. Let that information sink in a bit.
Note: The 395 ability power at level 18 doesn't account for the 25% increase in ability power provided by Zhonya's Ring, or the ability power from Archangel's Staff converting 3% of your maximum mana into ability power.
Start with Javelin Toss / Takedown for harassing. Try not to make it obvious that you're lining up for a skill shot when you go to throw it. It's not a hard skill shot to dodge, so if they see it coming it's a bit of a waste.
Your Primal Surge / Swipe is the second skill you get. In the interest of conserving mana, don't use it until you NEED it. Don't heal while you're not in danger. Basically, if you're above half and not being attacked, you don't need to heal. Healing when it's not needed could keep you from healing when it IS needed, so discretion is key.
I usually get Bushwhack / Pounce third, but as long as you get one level of it before level 6 you're good to go. I have, on occasion, forgotten to learn the skill before level 6, been ganked, switched to cougar to run away, and had my heart sink when I realized I couldn't pounce. It is IMPERATIVE that you learn bushwhack before level 6.
An important note: Leveling up a human skill does not affect the level of the corresponding cougar skill, other than learning it. Leveling Aspect of the Cougar is what improves her cougar skills.
Once Nidalee reaches level 6 and has Aspect of the Cougar, she is an incredibly adept jungler. Because her cougar abilities have ridiculously low cooldowns and cost no mana to cast, you can make short work of any minion camp (you may want to leave Dragon alone for a few more levels, though). Also, both minion buffs benefit Nidalee, and if you've got the Utility Mastery, they can last that little bit longer.
Knowing when it's an appropriate time to jungle is important. If you reach level 6 and your lane is being pushed hard, you may want to wait until you get up to their tower, or destroy their tower completely. You may never really get a chance to jungle if the other team is constantly pushing.
Don't jungle if there's a team fight starting up nearby. Your team needs you.
Don't jungle if you have an undefended tower being pushed. Head to that tower and defend as much as you can.
If your team starts a big push, you should go with them. Nothing quite as frustrating as 4 vs 5-ing next to an enemy tower while someone's prancing around in the jungle.
Even if you're in the middle of jungling, always go help lanes that look like they need it. You're not a selfish, silent Warwick who stays away and only pops out of the jungle for an easy kill. You're an asset to your team in any scenario.
If you're lucky, your lane mate will happily take the solo lane and experience once you reach level 6 and want to start jungling. Start at one end of the jungle and just go straight up to the other. No particular order. Be wary of going into the enemy jungle though, especially if anyone on their team is missing or also jungling.
You also need to know when to give the buffs to someone else. If you have an Anivia or Heimerdinger on your team, it may benefit the team more for them to have the Golem Buff. The same goes for the Lizard Buff if you've got a DPS carry that needs it. You're probably going to be the team's carry and healer though, so if you think the team would be better off if you had the buffs, fight for them.
Nidalee is not a champion for the faint of heart. If you're looking for a pick-up-and-play champion, I suggest you look elsewhere. For the few skilled summoners that can manage to master the beast, I have this to say:
Always remember that you are the fiercest cat in the jungle. You own the brush. You're always on the prowl. Be confident, be proud, and never let them get away.