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The Needle, The Cat, The Bear
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Nidalee is one of the most difficult champions to play and when played/built poorly she's considered a trashy pick.
When played well though she is very rewarding and can be useful on different levels.
I myself have played nidalee for about 2 years now and I have accounts over 2300 elo (70% W/L) so I know what I'm talking about.
Take in mind this is my first guide~
1. The Needle (AP Pewpew)
2. The Cat (AD Fighter)
3. The Bear/Fatcat (AD Tanky/Utility)
I find that there are 2 core ways to play AP Nidalee depending on what team you are facing and where you would want to position yourself.
Ignite is useful if you're going for some easy extra damage, perhaps for a kill in-lane. It's not what you're looking for really because you want to stretch to late and you want damage from spears. Not saying ignite is useless, I frequently use it because Nidalee's bases are honestly overpowered. A level 6 combo with ignite hurts.
Exhaust is more of a defensive spell if you're playing AP. The utility it adds offensively is just the slow and you wouldn't want to jump someone as cougar without hitting them with spears. Consider exhaust if you're versus a good assassin. Perhaps Fizz.
You'll learn how to utilize different summoner spell's after playing with them for a while, find what YOU like.
AP Nidalee can be played as the unreachable needle-cannon or the AP-fighter.
The basic mark is magic pen. If you're an advanced player that want to auto-harass, then AD marks are just fine. 9 Mpen won't be the world.
The basic seal would be AP/Lvl but you should consider armor at many cases. If you're facing a physical-based champ you should go armor seals or rush Ninja Tabi. Some people prefer Mregen seals but I would go Chalice/Athene's with Ap/Lvl seals if I have issues.
The basic glyph is AP/lvl but you should consider flat Mr or Mr/lvl if you're afraid of being nuked.
The basic Quint is flat AP but if you're afraid of being blown into bits then the flat AP ones are very strong, especially when combined with flat Mr glyphs and a chalice.
The basic mastery tree for AP Nid is:
In early game you rush out of your base with boots and 3 potions. You skill your W and you start to control the map. You would want to trap around your own lane or at core points to help your jungler.
Your goal is A: Chalice of Harmony / Fiendish Codex -> Athene's Unholy Grail
Or B: Catalyst the Protector -> Rod of Ages
Both items are equally strong in my opinion.
A: You would want to build chalice/athene's if you are pressured, denied bluebuff or if you just decide to have increased ability to push out spears mid/late game.
B: You would want to build catalyst/rod of ages if you want to use your healthpool and use catform. This tends to be stronger early/mid. It also works well with a Lich Bane.
You don't want to fight the enemy unless they make severe mistakes and you can harass them. Beware of ganks though, early game is not nidalee's time to shine. Focus on lasthitting.
In mid game you should be looking for opportunities to roam, zone enemies or force them into spears. Perhaps steal objectives. If you are under pressure or feel like there are no options but to farm up to late you should try to clear out camps during wave respawns.
You should now be building Rabadon's Deathcap -> Void Staff, perhaps Lich Bane or Guardian Angel somewhere depending on what you feel like.
Rabadon's Deathcap This is core and should be built asap
Void Staff Note: Don't build this without deathcap.
Lich Bane This adds extra damage if you're unable to hit spears or if you don't have magic pen.
You should be looking for any opportunity to hit your enemies with spears, if you have sufficent mana regen you should also care to trap a lot.
Hitting one or two spears before fighting is essential when Nidalee is AP. Stacking up 5v5 in a lane is perfect for these opportunities.
Now you should be considering ultimate survival or penetration if you haven't picked it up
You should have Rabadon's Deathcap and perhaps Void Staff. Consider Lich Bane or Guardian Angel.
Sometimes in mid and late Quicksilver Sash can be very useful, but mostly situational and advanced.
If you went Rod of Ages, a last item choice could be Athene's Unholy Grail.
The difference between the "bear" and the cat build is that the cat needs to be a threat when it comes to dealing damage. The enemy ad or ap should fear you.
I've tried the most combinations of summoners on AD nid and I find that Ghost with Flash is extremely strong both in offense and defense.
For utility you could go Teleport, Exhaust or Ignite with Flash.
Ignite Is good for damage ampiflication. You can bring up high burst and go for kills in lane, especially around level 6.
Exhaust Adds utility to your team. Defence or offence, your choice!
Teleport I usually don't go teleport with this guide because I love to push. Teleport can be gamebreaking though. You never know what's going to happend across the map and it's very situational. It's advanced.
AD Marks are beast atm and they scale increadibly with her cougar Q. Makes lasthitting a breeze.
Armor seals for obvious reasons. You will be fighting and it's most likely versus a physical-based champ.
Magic Resistance glyphs for tankiness. At times I go attackspeed glyphs but that's a very rare case.
Flat AD Quints, good scaling with Q, good for auto-harass and lasthitting. You could go armor penetration but it'd be close to equal. In rare cases, armor/mr or health quints, perhaps movementspeed quints could be used. It's advanced and it's something you'd know, not something you would look up in a guide.
In early game you rush out of your base with boots and 3 potions. Versus high physical damage like pantheon you could go armor/5. You skill your W and you start to control the map. You would want to trap around your own lane or at core points to help your jungler.
You would either want to go for 2 Doran's Blade into your choice of t2 boots
Or try to get an early Phage perhaps with Vampiric Scepter or a Doran's Blade
Going for Wriggle's Lantern + a Doran's Blade or Ruby Crystal for Phage also works.
You want to farm and auto-attack the enemy frequently. Be aggressive but don't be baitable. Zone, but don't go for kills pre-6. Try to farm and to use your mana for trapping. Consider using health potions instead of your E to sustain yourself because you could use the mana for traps.
You should now be warding top at all times and be applying pressure to either tower or drake. Make sure you auto-attacking the enemy is a pain. You should have phage by now or lifesteal, make sure to use that to your advantage with trades. Finish off minions with cougar Q for massive lifesteal.
Doran's Blade + Phage -> Wit's End Makes great kiting damage.
Wriggle's Lantern + Phage Easier push, good harass and sustain
If you don't have t2 boots, get that asap. Go for Trinity Force or Frozen Mallet and then start building Guardian Angel
You should either be splitpushing effectively or be a threat to them in the jungle, look for buffs to steal. Ward their jungle up while you push. What goes for teamfights, always go for the squishy targets. Try to tag them with a slow through an auto attack and then jump into cat to chase them. Remember to use your cat Q when they have low hp because of the 1.0/2.0->3.0 AD ratio.
Picking up Guardian Angel is very important for late game, this is annoying for the enemy team
Last Whisper For lategame penetration.
Atma's Impaler combined with Frozen Mallet is okay, it's also decent with Trinity Force.
Maw of Malmortius for more Mr, perfect vs karthus.
Randuin's Omen is core as tanky nida. You could buy it for the utility it adds, hard to escape from your grasp.
As fatcat all you want to do is become a wall or add utility. You either want to slow enemies attackspeed, movement speed or defend your own allies. Nidalee fits because she has high movement and her bases are high.
Use summoners for pure utility for your team. Flash and Exhaust or Teleport
Exhaust Would be better for teamfights in late-game. If you're fighting someone who probably won't roam a lot or if you recognize that you'll need a damage damper in teamfights, this could be an ace.
Teleport If you're good with teleport, you can make gamebreaking plays. Spot a fight in bot? Teleport for a tripple kill and a dragon! Teleport can be a waste at times though, your team has to utilize this summoner, not only you.
You want these for lasthitting.
You want these for defense, easier farming.
The defensive option depending on what you face, you just want to farm.
On quints you've a selection of runes. Do you want movement speed to catch someone or AD to lasthit/push? Armor or health regen to lane?
You should recognize in their team what your options are.
Start boots 3 pots. If you're vs a tough lane go cloth/5. If you're vs an easy lane go health regen. Take in mind that their jungle has to be a bad ganker if you're going to rush philo.
Trap, as usual in a defensive way.
Your goal is to get Philosopher's Stone and/or Heart of Gold
The philo isn't core but HoG is. You want Randuin's Omen late.
Another option is to get the mats to Warmog's Armor asap.
Getting early Mercury's Treads or Ninja Tabi are also good.
You can pick up Cloth Armor or Null-Magic Mantle anytime because you will build several items with them.
If you're not recieving any damage in your lane, an option is Phage -> Frozen Mallet after HoG
Only focus on lasthitting. Try not to take damage and waste too much mana. Try to keep a good ammount of traps out without wasting too much mana, only use mana for sustaining. You might get bullied while you try to lasthit.
Either you're farming up a nice pile of gold with your double gold-regen or you're stacking up your warmog stacks. Try to have their toplaner at top and keep the laningphase up for long. It's hard not to pressure too much or too little. If you're forced to move, do so. Don't cripple your team because you need to farm.
Mercury's Treads , Frozen Mallet , Randuin's Omen Great utility items
Shurelya's Battlesong Is good utility if you built philosopher earlier.
Try finishing items that are helpful to your team.
2 Doran's Blade and Glacial Shroud tend to be increadibly strong.
If you've leftover armor/mr pieces you can build Aegis of the Legion
Now you should be beefy and you should be able to position yourself wherever you want. In teamfights, recognize in your team and the enemy team where you have to be and what you have to do. Be a wall of protection or a zoning tool. Emphasized: Stick onto their ad or ap carry to help your own team, slow them down or be a personal bodyguard to your carries.
Stay with your team, don't splitpush as it's not as important.
Randuin's Omen Is a must by now, so is Frozen Mallet.
Guardian Angel is a good endgame item, Force of Nature is godlike with the hp-items you have, also increased movement speed and mr. Genius.
Frozen Heart is a viable option to Randuin's Omen. You might aswell get both, really good utility.