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Nidalee Build Guide by Zerofl

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Zerofl

Zerofl's AP Midalee [In Depth Guide] GLASS CANNON!

Zerofl Last updated on May 21, 2013
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

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.



Offense: 21

Honor Guard

Defense: 0


Utility: 9

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Introduction - Pros & Cons

Welcome to Zerofl's Nidalee build, thank you for taking your time to read this.

This build is an AP Mid Nidalee build meant to destroy your opponents from afar. The main idea is to be able to spear down the enemy in team fights, and be able to almost one-shot carries while still being able to burn down the health of tanks. This is mainly achieved by building an insane amount of ability power combined with magic penetration.



+ Extemely long range
+ Heavy burst with Javelin Toss
+ Great heal and AS buff with Primal Surge
+ Good map control with Bushwhack
+ Ability to easily move around on map with Aspect Of The Cougar as well as bypassing walls etc.
- Glass cannon
- No CC
- Extremely vulnerable to ganks pre-6
- Difficult to master

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Short Ability Explanation

This guide assumes that you are already somewhat familiar with Nidalee and her abilities, but I will give you a short introductions to them anyway.

Human Form

As glass cannon Nidalee this is your main ability. It is a skill shot with extreme range, whose damage is increased at farther ranges. Always try to hit your target at maximum range for most damage output.
Sets a trap on a targeted ground location, revealing and damaging enemies that walk into it. Traps last 4 minutes, and you can have an unlimited amount of traps at the same time. Mainly use this ability for better map control and preventing ganks (by putting it in bushes and gank spots etc.)
Heals a friendly target and increases its attack speed. Use this ability for sustain in lane, and for more damage with auto attacks. Use it on a friendly AD carry in fights to increase its total damage output.

Cougar Form

Deals extra damage on next auto attack based on enemy current health (lower HP equals more damage). Use this ability to take down low health enemy targets.
Nidalee jumps in the direction that she is running, and deals damage upon landing. Extremely effective ability, since you will be able to jump across thinner jungle walls (as well as wall to baron/dragon pit). Be careful positioning yourself as Nidalee jumps the direction that she is facing, not the direction of your mouse. Can also be used to farm minions easily.
Deals damage in front of you (to multiple targets). Can be used to easily farm minons together with Pounce, but also to deal extra damage on your enemy. Use this ability before Takedown for most damage output.

All abilities and their uses will be described throughout the guide :)

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Pre-game: Runes & Masteries


Playing as glass cannon Nidalee leads to maximum damage output. While Nidalee's damage output early game is weak, I like to maximize it with my runes. Therefore I always pick as much flat ability power and magic penetration as possible:

Quintessence of Ability Power
Glyph of Ability Power
Mark of Magic Penetration

I usually combine this with Seal of Mana Regeneration to sustain Nidalee's relatively high mana use early game. If you are facing an AD assassin mid, you should pick Seal of Armor.

Further to this I normally start with Doran's Ring for additional ability power and mana regeneration. Keep reading for further information regarding to starting items.


When it comes to masteries, I always found 21/0/9 suitable for this glass cannon build. The idea is likewise to pick up ability power, magic penetration and mana regeneration. I don't really see any alternatives to the regular 21/0/9 AP build, since the sustain you would get from a 21/9/0 really doesn't make any difference - you will still be seriously vulnerable.

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Pre-game: Summoner Spells

Regarding to summoner spells one thing is for sure: Flash is a must pick on this Nidalee. Although Aspect Of The Cougar gives you several opportunities to escape and build distance to your enemy, it will not save you at all times. Flash is always useful if you are being ganked or getting unwanted focus in a team fight due to bad positioning etc.

When it comes to your second summoner spell you will have different opportunities.

While I tend to pick up Ignite this is mostly useful in laning phase and small skirmishes, and you hardly ever use it in team fights. But be aware of the fact that it is very useful in early game to burst down your enemy before the availability of Aspect Of The Cougar, since you do not have a sustain damage output. Other possible picks are as follows:
This ability suits for a lot of same uses as Ignite. It can be used to kill your opponent early game and in small skirmishes. Further to this, it can be used to chase down low health targets, or increase your ability to hit Javelin Toss. Additionally, you can use it if you're being focused in a team fight, to lower the damage of your opponent, as well as the movement speed, giving you the ability to escape. This summoner spell can in many ways be considered a wiser pick on Nidalee when playing glass cannon, only reason I don't pick it too often, is the fact that I'm more comfortable with Ignite, as I usually pick that.
Teleport gives you the opportunity to teleport in to gank other lanes, which on most champions can be a strong possibility. You can also get into a fight that is far away quickly and unnoticed, if you team wards up properly. Teleport can be a good pick, but leaves you without the damage from Ignite or the CC from Exhaust, so make sure it fits your team composition and/or enemy team composition.
If you like to take chances and use Aspect Of The Cougar a little more than intended in this guide, I will recommend you to pick Barrier. While I would never pick this spell myself, there are several opportunities in this pick, being able to play a little more aggressive in lane phase, while also being able to defend yourself better in team fights.
I consider this summoner spell a terrible pick. This pick is only useful for those who does not know how to economise on their mana correctly. While this build already focuses on building mana and mana regeneration, it would also be useless late game.

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Short Core Items Explanation

The core items have a one thing in common: damage. As already explained, this build focuses purely on deathly Javelin Tosses. When playing Nidalee it is important to get a Tear of the Goddess as you hit level 6, and immediately start farming it. Meanwhile you should build a Rabadon's Deathcap for maximum damage output, immediately followed by Void Staff to be able to take down tankier targets as well. At this point, or before, your Tear of the Goddess should be fully built, ready to upgrade to Archangel's Staff that then transforms into Seraph's Embrace, for more safety due to its shield. This is the main thought about my glass cannon build.

Why not Lich Bane

While Lich Bane is a very strong item on Nidalee, either to follow up your spears with high-damage autoattacks, or increase the damage on Takedown, it puts you in a very risky position, where you are likely to get bursted down. You simply do not want to get in an auto-attack range unless you're already winning the fight, and if you are, you normally don't need the extra damage it will provide.

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Early Game: Starting Items

Mostly I tend to start with a Doran's Ring for ability power and mana regeneration. Starting with this item requires you to play very safely during the early leveling phase, in order not to get ganked, and not to get harassed too much.

Beware: Strong ganks from enemy jungler!

In other cases where the enemy has a jungler that is dangerous early game ( Zac, Lee Sin, Volibear, Shen etc.), you might wanna switch your starting items out. Here you have two different options.

Option 1: When playing versus high mobility or skill-shot mid/jungler

Option 2: When playing against jungler that you want to avoid completely
+ Sight Ward +
This also building up your Tear of the Goddess early.

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Early Game: Ability Sequence

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

First ability pick

I normally decide to start out with Bushwhack for optimal map control. This allows you to "ward" around your lane to prevent early ganks. When "warding" up the map with traps, make sure to pick out spots where the enemy jungler would come from when ganking you early. This would include bushes in the path leading from red or blue buff, as well as the bushes next to the sides of mid lane. Place traps with care!

If starting with a ward, you can also start with Javelin Toss, to harass your opponent early.

Max your spears!

Followed by Bushwhack I always max out Javelin Toss by level 9, also picking it at level 2.

This allows you to be able to harass your opponent mid-lane player as much as possible, gaining mana regeneration from both Doran's Ring as well as Seal of Mana Regeneration.

Always prioritize last hits over harassment!

While you should focus on last-hitting, harassing with Javelin Toss early game puts alot of pressure onto your opponent, and a few hits should put them low enough either to gank, or for them to recall. Find opportunities to harass, and keep farming.

Play safe - Heal level 4

I normally first pick up Primal Surge at level 4. Since you should not take any serious damage from your opponent before, thanks to your long distance Javelin Toss and careful playstyle, you should keep leveling up this spear in order to max your damage. If you take serious damage before level 4 you can be forced to pick up Primal Surge, but if not, max Javelin Toss.

Why max Primal Surge before Bushwhack?

Many Nidalees max out Bushwhack before Primal Surge for maximum damage output. This build however, makes you too squishy to play without any serious healing source, leaving you too vulnerable in lane without any sustain. Therefore I always max Primal Surge after Javelin Toss, leaving Bushwhack for map control.

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Early Game: Play Style in Lane Phase & Ganks

The main key to playing Nidalee early game with this build is to play defensively.

Last hits and harassment

Your main focus should always be to last hit minions, but do not take any risks to do so. This means you should not move to close to champions that could be dangerous, to farm. At the same time you should put effort into harassing your opponent with Javelin Toss as much as possible. It can be difficult if your opponent constantly hides behind enemy minions, but be always be aware of possible situations to get a clear spear hit. Also there are different angles, from which you sometimes can hit your spear at max range, without any knowledge of your opponent. Examples on spots are as follows:Be careful when moving into bushes to spear, your enemy jungler could be waiting to gank you.

Map control

It is also very important to keep a decent map control when playing Nidalee early game. Nidalee does not have any abilities that allows her to escape a dangerous gank before Aspect Of The Cougar, and therefore it is very important to fill bushes with Bushwhack traps. Notice that Bushwhack has a reasonably long range which makes it possible to place them in the bushes from afar.


When it comes to ganks, your main actions vary, depending on the situation and your jungler. I will try to explain the main similarities in your positioning.

Beware: You have 0 CC!

Since Nidalee does not have any CC, you will in most cases need to wait for your jungler to engage the gank.

Junglers with CC like Shen, Lee Sin etc. are preferred when playing Nidalee. When this happens try to get in position to place a Bushwhack trap behind your enemy. Normally you are not able to get a spear hit because of minions, so do your best to just auto-attack the enemy while still moving closer to your target. Also you should have the opportunity to Ignite your opponent, depending on how safe the kill is. Your opponent should naturally move towards safety within its own tower, so when you get through the minion wave, you should be able to get a clear Javelin Toss to finish the opponent.

Remember Primal Surge!

While trying to take down your opponent, be aware of the effect of Primal Surge on you, or your jungler, depending on your attack damage, since it can be highly increased with the attack speed buff.

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Mid Game: Laning Phase

During mid phase there are a few changes to keep in mind, but generally, it follows the early game play style, with the addition of Aspect Of The Cougar.

While laning phase should work the same way as in early game, it will open up to more opportunities for you, mainly caused by:
- More mana and mana regeneration
- More ability power
- Better map control due to wards (you should always get wards)
- The availability of Aspect Of The Cougar

Play more aggressively

All in all you are become suitable for playing more aggressively in lane. You should constantly throw down your enemy with Javelin Toss and try to get them low.

Your jungler will also be more likely to gank your lane as you hit level 6, and depending on your opponent and their ability to burst you down, you will be able to engage with Aspect Of The Cougar, then move to afar and get a Javelin Toss onto your target. The tricky aspect is still to stay safe, but as mentioned, you will need to understand your opponents abilities before engaging.

Example plays and ganks

Let's say you're playing against a mid champion that will not be likely to burst you down instantly if not fed. That could be Twisted Fate, Diana, Morgana, Zyra, Kassadin etc. or any champion that recently used an important ability, leaving it on cooldown when you engage.
Always be aware of skill shots to dodge and other strengths to avoid.

The optimal engage when your jungler is ganking is always to get a clear Javelin Toss hit onto your target, followed by the engage by your jungle. Here you would either get into cougar form and engage, or stay from afar for another deadly spear.

If you are trying to get a kill without your jungler, using Aspect Of The Cougar followed by a Flash into a Pounce onto your enemy could be deadly - and if they still flee, spear them down. But if you are not able to get a clear shot, engaging with cougar form can be the only solution - but time it well with the engage of your jungler.

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Mid Game: Skirmishes & When to Use Cougar Form

When I'm using the word Skirmishes, I am talking about fights that includes from 2v2 to 4v4. This could be a gank that gets counter ganked, a heavy gank, a small dragon fight etc. Nidalee can be very dangerous in these fights, but she can also be very exposed if not positioned correctly. Your main objective should be to hit squishy targets with Javelin Toss, either picking up kills, or allowing your team to easily do the rest of the damage required to kill.

You normally only want to use Cougar Form when:
- You need to pick a low health target kill that is separated from the rest of his team
- You are already winning the fight
- You can engage your enemies without getting focused - Meaning other threatening targets are far away from your target

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Late Game: Optional Items

Late game is always very different in different games. Some enemy targets may be higher value or higher threatening, that needs you to build different items and/or playstyles to fit these different cases.

Optional Items

Zhonya's should be your main optional item, since it gives you a lot of defense, and is definitely a must-pick against assassins such as Talon, Zed, LeBlanc, Kassadin etc. If you are being focused by an assassin in a teamfight, you are very likely to get bursted down, and not be able to do anything useful for your team. When using Zhonya's Hourglass you have the ability to leave an enemy assassin unable to hurt you for whole 2 seconds, allowing your team to help you out.
Abyssal Mask allows you to go more aggressive towards sustain AP carries such as Swain, Lissandra, Morgana etc. You will be able to close in with Aspect Of The Cougar being more tanky, and dealing more damage due to its magic penetration. However you should notice that the aura from Abyssal Mask is only half range of your Javelin Toss, so when throwing at longer ranges, it will not add magic penetration.
Liandry's is normally picked against tankier targets. It gives you even more magic penetration and deals additionally damage based on your targets maximum health, especially when your targets movement speed is impaired (requires your team to have CC). Furthermore it adds a little health to your already relatively low pool, but it is nothing noteworthy, and should not be picked as a defensive item.
Lich Bane is a strong item on Nidalee, and picked up by many AP Nids. While it increases your overall damage output, it can put you in very dangerous situations, caused by the fact that you need to stay in range for an auto attack to trigger it. It should only be picked if your team is already dominating the game, or if you are sure that you will not get caught (If the enemy team does not have any serious gap-closers etc.). Lich Bane is especially strong in small skirmishes where it allows to trigger multiple times using Cougar Form.
Sight Ward A simple ward is an extremely efficient item on Nidalee. While it mainly helps you preventing ganks etc., it is also very useful in order to be able to hit fleeing targets, enemy jungler etc. with Javelin Tosses. Always buy wards.

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Late Game: Team Fights

As mentioned several times in this guide already, your main priority in team fights, should be to spear down the enemy, focusing squishy enemies before and in team fights. While Nidalee is a very strong champion pre-fights, where a perfect spear onto an enemy carry will allow you to engage with extreme advantage, she can also turn out useless if not played correctly.

The importance of PRE-FIGHTS

In pre-fights your team will also need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and you should at least hit one good spear before your team engages a fight. Always try to hit squishy targets (especially carries) with Javelin Toss, since you be able to more than 50% of their health at long ranges, leaving enemy team extremely vulnerable.

When fighting: Stay safe!

If a fight breaks out, you need to keep your eyes out for potential assassins, and stay away from them.

While enemy tanks normally will cover their carries, always try to get into a position to target carries with spears at long range, for instance from a spot in the jungle behind a wall etc. This will leave you out of the fight, but it will also leave you vulnerable to assassins, since your team will not be able to help you if being targeted, so always position yourself with caution.

Always spear - no matter target

If you are not able to target enemy carries, a Javelin Toss onto a tankier target is better than a miss, just try to put out as much damage as possible, since you should also be able to shred a lot of magic resist.

Importance of Primal Surge

Also, you should never forget Primal Surge as it is an extremely good ability. When being positioned close to your friendly AD carry, you can heal it, in order to increase its attack speed, and therefore total damage output with up to 60%. It also heals a great amount, so if your AD carry is being focused, you will be able heal it a lot, which can be a game changer.

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Late Game: When to Use Cougar Form

In team fights , Aspect Of The Cougar should be used with extreme caution (if used offensively). Do ONLY use it when:
- You are able to deal damage without putting yourself in a risky position (a target that is far away from other threats)
- You are guaranteed a kill on an enemy carry
- Your team is winning the fight
- You need to change your position for your next spear

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Thanks for reading

Thank you very much for reading.

Now get out their and try da stronk Midalee. Please remember to vote and leave a comment, and ask me if you have any questions at all :)

Thank you.