IntroductionSome of the new season 3 items benefit Nidalee more then any other champion, and change the way she can be played. New build combos exist that never did before. And Nid's spear remains one of the best poke skills in game. She has more abilities than most champions and yet she's easy to learn and hard to master. Immovable in lane, dangerous post-6, and able to get in and out of just about any situation. A snowball champion with a potentially devastating midgame, and always a split pushing menace. Let's get started.
Because Tenacious. Tenacious is the prize; it covers one of the biggest weaknesses nidalee has: crowd control (CC). Why not just dig into offense?
1. Nidalee is a skirmisher and one of the squishiest melees out there, so she wants to be able to get in, use her abilities, and get out without being caught trading blow for blow.
2. With no innate CC or slow you need to preserve your mobility advantage while chasing or fleeing.
3. With two bars of abilities there is always something she can be casting, especially if you are in the right position. CC tends to screw up positioning as well as your skill rotation. It is nidalee's bane.
As soon as we pick up tenacious, we get right back to filling out offense.
Why CDR? Because cougar form abilities coming up twice in a fight can be the difference between winning and losing. Because pounce helps travel time, and heal has a long cooldown. And because more heals IS more attack speed.
Why Summoner's Wrath? Because 5 Ad 5 Ap for one point is literally overpowered for the early game and you as a pure hybrid gain more than most from it. If you are taking cleanse or teleport, take another in CDR instead.
Why Blast? Because it unlocks 8% Magic Pen:)
Why 2% damage? Because you are a mixed hybrid and this talent is perfect for you.
Why AD? Because autoharass and last hit.
Spellblade is sexy because we have an innate attack speed steroid and we'll be picking up quite a bit of AP.
Why hp? Because nid is squishy and the alternatives are crap.
Why 3 Armor 1 MR? Because nid is top lane which is traditionally AD bruisers.
Why Slow resist? Because this is AMAZING on nid. To the point where Boots of Swiftness AND Merc Treads with two enchants isn't laughable.
21+ defense builds can also work (9/21/0 and 0/21/9), as can an AP build (21/0/9). But I've found 15/15/0 the most effective by far. Offensive AP builds net you a scary spear midgame, but I find I'm more effective overall when I can get in melee and rumble without worrying about getting CC'd and bursted down as much. And I find the utility tree doesn't have enough of an impact to help win your trades and ends up stalemating lanes, which is to your enemies' benefit as nidalee is a weak late game champ.
RunesI recommend Hybrid Penetration Marks, Armor Seals, MR or scaling MR Glyphs, and Hybrid penetration or Move Speed Quintessences.
Why armor and MR? Heals are more effective when you mitigate damage, so it helps in lane. It helps you survive burst too, and nid is very squishy.
Why move speed? One of your biggest strengths is speed already, this cements your dominance as one of the fastest champions. The bonus move speed from cougar will also get calculated into the percentage bonus.
Why hybrid penetration? Spears are your best attack and mpen is the best boost to that available. Early game autoattack harass is strong with armor pen. Hybrid penetration helps your whole kit.
Ignite, Flash, Exhaust, Cleanse, Ghost, and Teleport are all viable.
#1 - Flash is just amazing, it lets you escape ganks, dodge ultimates, flash into melee for a takedown, flash over a wall to escape a team, and more.
#2 - Ignite gives you more reach in duels to kill your opponent, and applying it to fleeing enemies is simple since you can so readily catch up to them. It dramatically reduces the impact of them healing, getting heals, vamping, lifestealing, regenning, or turning into the hulk and DUN DUN DAAAAA DUN KILLING EVERYONE. Ok maybe not the hulk part, but ignite is really good.
#3 - Exhaust lets you win duels you shouldn't, catch up in a chase, run away from a single enemy, or makes sure they hold still and eat the finisher spear/kitty combo.
#4 - Cleanse is surprisingly effective, especially late game. I tried a few games with it for this guide with low expectations but found it very strong. Early duel top? Cleanse their ignite and heal yourself for full value, then disengage at an even trade instead of being pushed out of lane. Heal yourself a few more times and push them out of lane. Team fight? bruisers generally eat all kinds of slows and stuns and this will keep you fighting and effective. Depends on their comp more than other summoners.
#5 - Ghost lets you avoid ganks early, help stick to carries in a teamfight, and helps cleanup teamfights you win like no other. Unfortunately I don't recommend it as top lanes are generally their beefiest scariest solo laner and you generally need at least the threat of an offensive summoner to keep trades even and disincentivize them going aggressive.
#6 - Teleport can be strong for split pushers and top laners, and opens up some interesting tactical possibilities with wards behind enemy lines, but on a champion this mobile it is somewhat of a waste. It does allow you to split push extremely hard and still be in the teamfights that matter. Worth experimenting with, for sure. A purple team teleport into the tribrush ward as soon as your iceborn gauntlet is done is quite fun, indeed.
Salient points about prowl: Enter brush, get speed boost. It persists for a couple seconds when leaving brush, so feel free to juke as you need to. While it is best to beeline for a brush when fleeing as it'll often give you the speed you need to get away, don't be too predictable about it or you'll eat skillshots. It is a lot of move speed, and as such it is one of the key ways you gain lane dominance; Run into the brush in the top lane to active this passive, then use the speed to catch up to and autoattack the enemy champion once, then use the speed to return to the brush to shed minions and avoid counterattacks. Midgame this passive gives you quicker roams. Counterjungle at low risk, head mid for a quick gank, or snag your own golems when Mr. jungle is bot:)
Q: Javelin Toss / Takedown
Javelin Toss. Aim for where they are going to be, not where they are. Throw it from a brush or from the jungle and you'll land more spears as they'll have more trouble spotting it. It damages minions, so a cheeky combo is last hit a minion they think will block and then throw the spear immediately thereafter. The damage boost is calculated by where you are when the spear lands, not the distance from where it was thrown, so back up after throwing a spear for maximum damage. If you are quick, you can transform and pounce away. The spears at close range don't do much, but do add them in whenever possible. At level 9 these can two shot carries and ranged supports. The first 2 ranks in Javelin Toss are relatively weak; The remaining three are when things get fun.
Takedown deals more physical damage the lower their health is. It resets your autoattack swing timer, so using it immediately after an autoattack grants you two rapid hits. This is generally your finisher; Pounce in, Shred, then Takedown the low opponent for the kill. W->E->Q. If they are running fast and your Q won't land after a shred casttime, do W->Q->E instead, although it is less damage because the takedown won't benefit from the shred's damage taking them lower, but often just landing all 3 abilities will be enough, and is always better than watching a low enemy get away from a glowing nidalee. This skill barely tickles a full health enemy, so make sure you have poked down their health with javelins before going in for the kill.
W: Bushwhack / Pounce
Bushwhack is one of the subtle skills that distinguishes a good nidalee from a great nidalee. Place them in your top lane bushes to prevent the enemy jungler from lane ganking, put them in the river brush and tribush and you'll have advanced warning almost as good as wards. Place them on the spawn of enemy red and blue and the trap will trigger when they respawn, showing you when to contest blue and red and gives you a chance for a quick steal. Don't place them under enemy towers as the enemy can step on them intentionally to trigger the tower to begin attacking you. The mitigation debuff is quite substantial and helps you hit harder, especially on enemy bruisers and tanks. Place them in your escape path when fleeing to add damage; if you are forced to fight, the mitigation debuff can make the difference. The lasting vision helps in duels where they duck into brush; you'll still be able to attack and follow their every move. The activation area is quite wide, so make sure you space them out the right distance at corners and chokes to catch more targets and make the aware enemies waste more time walking around. There is a short delay before traps become active, and only one trap can effect an enemy at a time so stacking a dozen traps on top of one another is only as effective as one trap, not an instagib:D
Pounce is nid's signature mobility move. This skill has a spammably low cooldown and it is affected by cooldown reduction. You can pounce over many thin walls and treelines, giving you retreats akin to flashing over a wall, or surprise attacks on unsuspecting enemies. When closing in for the kill don't forget pounce has a damage component; you'll want to stop spamming it and hesitate until you'll definitely land on them when on the attack. E->Q->W is an effective harassment combo that propels you to safety after a short melee burst. Nid is at her best when she is pouncing around, dodging specials, and keeping her Qs and Es on cooldown without ever trading in melee blow for blow.
E: Primal Surge / Swipe
Primal Surge is your heal. Heal yourself, save an ally, steroid your AD carry, or just selfbuff yourself before going cougar and rumbling. It has a long cooldown, so you'll want to choose carefully what effect(s) you want to have. Saving people generally comes first, then steroiding your ADC. In lane, you'll want to use this early and often as the cooldown can make it hard to patch up large health deficits. At level 2, if you've been poked but aren't too badly hurt, save the mana as at level 3 you'll get rank 2 primal surge, which has more healing per mana.
Swipe is your area of effect move (aoe), reaching roughly a 180 degree arc in front of you out to about half of your human form autoattack range. There is a short cast time. Use it to clear waves quickly and as a modest amount of supplemental damage in a fight.
R: Aspect Of The Cougar
Bonus defense, MR, and move speed. Keep this in mind. Fleeing? Don't shift into human if you can get away in cougar, even if you need the heal. It can be the speed difference they need to catch up and finish you off. Karthus ult? Heal yourself and tank the blast in cougar for the bonus MR - it may save your life. The 4 second cooldown can really ruin your day if you don't plan around it. Especially leaving cougar form, if the enemy melee dives on you right then, you'll find yourself unable to counterattack or pounce away.
Skill OrderTrap, 2 ranks in heal, then R>Q>E>W.
I like to spam traps all over my lane and in the enemy jungle before the round starts, which is why I take traps at level 1. You don't have to worry about lane ganks, you can clog up tribush pretty well, and sometimes you'll get a jungler with the river trap too. Mostly though, it secures the lane brush you'll be popping in and out of; if they came at you, you can simply retreat and run them over 240 damage worth of traps one by one and leave them debuffed if they want to continue to rumble.
From there two ranks of heal gives you the sustain power that makes her a lane bully. If you are losing your lane, instead take R>E>Q>W. Why Q first? Spear rank 5 is scary as hell at level 9 - two shot / one shot scary - but only respectable at level 13. Heal is always good, but the more ranks you can skimp on to max Q the better. The worse your lane is going, the more heal ranks you must take.
An interesting variation is if you take heal first, common in mid lane AP nid, you get a strong level 4 where you have both a rank 2 spear (which deals decent damage) and rank 2 heal (which is a good sized heal with a decent steroid). Nidalee generally can't trade blow for blow until level 6, but at level 4 with that setup sometimes you can win a duel and get a kill on a heavily poked enemy. Overall I find you lack killing power and most players are adept enough at staying behind minions that you can't do anything more than shove them out of lane until level 6. Regardless of build, always get 1 in trap before level 6 or you can't pounce in cougar. You don't gain longer vision or a lower cd from trap rankups, just greater damage and a better debuff, so that is why it is always maxxed last.
Item BuildsThere's two things to note postpatch:
1. Gauntlet is amazing in every way on nidalee. It's the new Rageblade. The proc lets her chase down enemies and wipe them out, or spear them and run away. It gives her AoE in melee-heavy teamfights. The AoE clears waves, letting her push even faster, and the proc damages towers she is pushing as well as damaging defending minions around it, allowing her to spam her free abilities to get procs as often as they are available. On top of this, literally every stat helps her: AP is great for spears and heals, the mana lets her spam and gives her much needed midgame mana, CDR is great in cat form and in general, and big armor to stay healthy against those top bruisers and jungle thickies.
2. Muramana/Seraph's combo is generally too hybrid for people to think of as more than a neat trick, but it works great on nid for number of reasons. First is pounce is spammable in and out of combat so nidalee can charge tear of the goddess faster than almost anyone in the league. An 18 minute muramana opens quite the timing window and is quite powerful with her heal steroid, and the bonus damage applies on spears for just that little more. Second, you are getting gauntlet anyway, one of the highest mana items in game, so the muramana/seraph's both charge off that. At lv18, you are up to roughly 3500 max mana, in fact - 70 AD and 105 AP! The seraph shield, while weak compared to the muramana, gives you occasional protection from being bursted down. A potential 210 bonus magic damage per autoattack and spear? That's ridiculous.
Now of course this comes with massive downsides. Muramana gets less and less effective as you lose mana, so you won't always be at fighting strength. Your usual selfheal and trap spam routine will still wear you down, even if you are careful to turn off muramana for minion and jungle clearing. And if the enemy pushes you won't always have time to go get a full tank, either. But a full tank is pretty goddamned scary.
3. From here you want either a big health item or a GA so you can dig into melee without worrying about being focused as much, and aegis is a perfect blend of HP and MR. If no one else has picked it up, a frozen heart is a strong anticarry item that goes well with your mana items, though you'll still need some health.
4. If you are fed, you might instead go AP without looking back. After all, the muramana/seraph's combo is up to 165 AP, and the gauntlet brings that to 205, leaving plenty of room for a deathcap and a ROA/deathfire/void staff to top everything off. The muramana procs will benefit from the DFG/void staff, too!
5. For AD options, the other remaining hybrid options are pretty sparse. The new rageblade is rather mediocre now that it is balanced around it being pre-stacked, though self-heal/seraph shield/malmortius/barrier with the critical health proc is a cute trick. Triforce would be good, but it is a redundant waste here as phage and sheen compete with gauntlet... The new hextech gunblade is quite strong, but spell vamp and life steal are somewhat wasteful stats on a champion that can heal herself. The active is great for nid though, giving her another item to shock them into burst range while also giving her a much needed slow.
Zephir COULD be a good item when paired with swiftness boots to make you nigh unslowable, and many of the stats are great, but attack speed isn't really what you want on an in-and-out skirmish champion... and that is the biggest stat budget.
Early GameRun into bush, run out, attack enemy champ once, then run back into bush to shed creeps. Do this every time your minion gets low and they go in for a last hit. In the meantime, last hit well. Heal up their poke and keep them at a distance. Don't push your lane until level 6 or expect to get ganked. Do not duel the enemy champion, you will lose; just farm until 6.
Mid GameThis is when it gets fun; buy a ward and push relentlessly into their tower and knock it over. Harass the enemy champ at his tower as he tries to last hit and E->Q him in cougar any time he enters melee with you. Pounce away after until he's low, then go for the kill. Trap their jungle buff, hopefully you are blue team so you can trap and steal the enemy red buff. Run over to mid and gank that squishy AP; your passive makes the river run bearable. Counterjungle whenever possible. Mix it up and get the two teams trading blows in jungle skirmishes as much as you can; you can finish kills on their runners quite often. Buy enough wards so that you can safely push to the inner turret and keep the pressure there high. At the least, keep feeding minion waves directly into the turret before you go and roam. If they come to gank, waste their time and let your team get the other towers.
Late GameIf the pushing goes well, there won't be a late game. But this is where nidalee falls off. At this point, your skills don't scale so well, and slows are proliferated heavily so hard engages are very fast. This means the poke phase is very short, which is your ace in the hole. You gotta land your spears - at least a few of them - before the engage, or you are a liability to your team at this point as you have no big ultimate, major AOE, or long CC. Before, one spear into a cougar combo was a kill, but now you gotta land two before charging in. That's significantly more tricky as you won't have the advantage of surprise for the second spear, or you simply may not have time for a second spear. Hopefully the game never gets to this point, or you are so fed that this just doesn't apply.
Team FightsStay with your team and poke. Trap their tank if you can. Heal enemy poke. The 4 second cooldown on transform means you'll be committed to cougar form for a bit once the heavy fighting starts, so you may want to delay entering cougar as a teamfight breaks out for a fraction of a second to get a full value heal out. Then stick like glue to their carry. Generally you'll do better against their AP since you can dodge with pounce, but take whatever squishy carry is closest. Take them down and then try to disengage or regroup with your team. If you killed their carry but died (often the case), that's usually an advantage for your team. Nice work.