Nidalee Build Guide

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The guide to the cougar! (AP/CDR)

written by spoonie

Nidalee Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    About Me!

    I really think that in order to give credibility to the guide, you need to know a bit about what experience I've had about the champion I'm writing about. I've played Nidalee for a long time now, and she's my most played hero with more than 200 games played. All my games is mostly done solo queueing though, or with 1-2 friends at max. I've found Nidalee to be a very diverse character, and not all that easy to play - but in the right hands, she can be devastating in the early/mid part of the game. This is what my guide will focus on, getting an early advantage, and keeping it!

    Statistics before the start of 'Season 1': spoonedlol (eu).

    | 1850 Kills / 717 Deaths / 1450 Assists | 2.59 K/D Ratio | 140 wins/82 losses |

    As Nidalee you really always want to get a solo lane! If you're not going to get one, I suggest not picking Nidalee - really. She can be decent in a 2v2 lane setup, but she really shines as a roaming ganker - which is why you want to get to level 6 as fast as possible! Towards the end game, the usefulness of Nidalee decreases, and there's stronger end game heroes to be found. Now, she doesn't turn completely useless, but her early/mid game is where she really shines.

    If you demote the guide, atleast make a comment on what to improve on - help me make the guide better.


  • Abilities

    Quite a useful passive. It gives you a reason to run through the bushes when chasing/escaping, other than the fact they can't target you. Clever use of this will save your ass - switching direction in the bush, coming out with a 15% movement speed increase and running the other way, and your gone.

    Javelin Toss / Takedown
    Javelin Toss: Scales off of your AP. This does a good chunk of damage, but it's also a skillshot - it does not go through creeps/champions. It's quite costly, and I do not recommend spamming it in order to harass in the early game - unless your sure you will hit.

    Takedown: Scales off of your AD - unlike all the other spells in your arsenal. It's designed to be a finishing move, and it scales with how much HP the target has left. But with its short CD you can [Pounce] -> [Takedown] -> [Swipe] -> [Takedown] without too much worry. The ability is an 'on next swing' attack, so make sure you've got the right target when you [Pounce] to the enemy - wasting [Takedown] on a random creep in your way sucks.

    Bushwhack / Pounce
    Bushwhack: Scales off of your AP. Is made for scouting! Place this on key locations on the map (in bushes, infront of golem/lizard/nashor, on the pathways in the jungle). Everytime it's off CD, find a place to use it. It's also very useful in fights - the trap effect reduces armor/magic resistance by a %, so throwing a trap on the focus target before going in can really turn fights.

    Pounce: Scales off of your AP. This ability, plus her passive, is what makes Nidalee so good at escaping ganks/chasing low levels. It recently took a hit with the nerfbat and it no longer scales with your -CDR, but it's still a really good spell. It's not only a great escape mechanism, but it also deals quite abit of damage when you land.

    Primal Surge / Swipe
    Primal Surge: Scales off of your AP. Spam it! It's cheap, and it gives a nice boost to attackspeed. Not much to this ability really, it's a heal with a attackspeed component. Even if your at full HP, and if no one else needs a heal, throw it on yourself before going into couger form, or when engaging a tower in human form.

    Swipe: Scales off of your AP. This is also made to be spammed! All of Nidalee's abilities in couger form costs no mana, and has really short CD's. This ability, along with [Pounce] deals AoE damage.

    Aspect Of The Cougar
    Tiger form, RAWR! This is it! This is what makes Nidalee. All her abilities in cougar form has no mana cost, and is only limited by how short the CD is - and how fast you can spam them.

  • Changelog

    * * * UPDATES FOR PATCH '' * * *
    - There's been no real changes to Nidalee in a long time, so the guide hasn't changed all that much. I've updated the names (Zhonyas -> Rabadon's Deathcap), but besides that,this is still the way I recommend playing Nidalee.
    - With the new tenacity items it's possible to skip getting Mercury's Treads and get a Tenacity item + Ionian Boots of Lucidity or Sorcerer's Shoes, which are both viable alternatives (Ionian Boots of Lucidity when facing teams that allow you to go Cougar a lot, and Sorcerer's Shoes if you want your Spears to hurt.)

    * * * UPDATES FOR PATCH '' * * *
    - Sheen/Lich Bane changes isn't THAT noticeable. It did hurt the sustained damage in 'Aspect of the Cougar', but her initial burst damage is unchanged.

    * * * UPDATES FOR PATCH '' * * *
    - Hextech Gunblade is out. I wouldn't recommend getting it - Nidalee does not scale very well with 'Spell Vamp' since both Swipe and Pounce are AoE attacks, and do not get the full benefit from it.
    - Testing the changes to the Sheen/Lich Bane.

    * * * UPDATES FOR PATCH '' * * *
    - Added Cleanse to the 'Summoner Abilities' section again.
    - The jury is still out on Hextech Gunblade. Will update the section when I'm sure.
    - Added another tip to the 'Tips and Tricks' section.
    - Rewrote part of the 'Items' section.

    * * * UPDATES FOR PATCH '' * * *
    - Testing the new Hextech Gunblade.
    - Added a 'TL;DR' section to the guide.
    - Cleaned the guide up.

    * * * UPDATES FOR PATCH '' * * *
    - Removed Cleanse from the 'Summoner Abilities' section.
    - Changed the colour of some of the text to make it more pleasing to the eye.
    - Rewrote the 'Introduction' section.
    - Fixed the 'Masteries' for 'Season 1'.

    * * * UPDATES FOR PATCH * * *
    - Added patching section.
    - Rewrote section on 'Playstyle' to match the latest patch.
    - Rewrote section on 'Items' to match recent patch changes.

    * * * UPDATES FOR PATCH * * *
    - Some spelling mistakes corrected.
    - Added part about 'Teamfights' to the section on 'Playstyle'.
    - Added the 'Changelog' ;)
    - Added Sheen to the core item build.

  • Patch Changes

    * * * PATCH * * *
    * Pounce no longer deals damage if her jump is interrupted by another movement effect

    * * * PATCH * * *
    * Javelin Toss can now be cast out of range, and it will cast in that direction
    * Fixed a bug where Javelin Toss would not hit stealthed Champions

    * * * PATCH * * *
    * Base damage increased to 53 from 50

    * * * PATCH * * *
    * Sheen, Lich Bane and Trinity Force's "reservoir" system has been removed. These items will now strictly respect the cooldown time between procs. The cooldown has been reduced to 2 second delays between procs from 3 seconds.

    * Pounce can no longer be cast while rooted
    * Cougar form's tooltip now correctly mentions the 10% bonus dodge chance Nidalee gains in Cougar Form
    * Corrected a display error with Takedown and death recap

    * * * PATCH * * *
    * Summoner Cleanse now removes Silence and Blind effects

    * * * PATCH * * *
    * Fixed a bug with Swipe that would cause it to occasionally not include Ability Power in the damage.
    * Takedown is no longer dodgeable and now resets Nidalee's auto attack timer on cast.

    * * * PATCH * * *
    * Primal Surge heal reduced to 60/90/120/150/180 from 75/120/165/210/255.
    * Primal Surge ability power ratio increased to 1.25 from .8.
    * Javelin Toss ability power ratio increased to .65 from .55.

  • TL;DR

    Masteries and Runes:



    or or

    Summoner Spells:
    and either or

    Skilling Order:
    > > >

    Doran's Ring.

    Blasting Wand => Guinsoo's Rageblade.
    Boots of Speed => Ionian Boots of Lucidity or Mercury's Treads.
    Optional: Mejai's Soulstealer

    Sheen => Lich Bane.
    Needlessly Large Rod => Rabadon's Deathcap

    If you did not get a Mejai's Soulstealer, I recommend grabbing the items in this order: Sheen > Needlessly Large Rod > Lich Bane > Rabadon's Deathcap.

  • Masteries + Runes


    Nidalee is, in her cougar form, only limited by how fast her abilities come off cooldown - which is why I suggest going full utility. I recommend:


    Since she obviously needs to get close to her target to rip their faces off, going into the Defensive tree and grabbing [mastery_text=Nimbleness] and some more dodge/magic resistance is the smartest choice - besides, it'll help you get away/chase faster!

    I know some people go 9 points into Offence to grab [mastery_text=Archaic Knowledge], and it's also a viable solution - but I like the added survivability from the Defensive tree more.

    It comes down to playstyle really. The way I see Nidalee's role in a team, is as a ganker/chaser - you can't gank if your locked down by various slows and so on. I like to get in and out of the battle quickly, and by dodging an attack you've got: [mastery_text=Nimbleness] + [Pounce] + Prowl - very few champions would be able to chase you down with that.


    I recommend using the following runes:

    9x Greater Mark of Insight or Greater Mark of Desolation.
    9x Greater Seal of Evasion
    9x Greater Glyph of Focus
    3x Greater Quintessence of Focus/ Greater Quintessence of Celerity or Greater Quintessence of Swiftness


    The Marks: Penetration gives you the most 'bang for the buck'. Most of your damage will come from [Pounce] and [Swipe] which will be boosted by the magic penetration from Greater Mark of Insight. But your auto-attack and Takedown is boosted by Mark of Desolation, which makes pushing towers easier - so they're not a bad choice either.

    The Seals: They'll provide you with a higher chance of proccing [spell_text=Nimbleness] - so that's pretty self explanatory. If you opted for a Offence/Utility spec, and not Defence/Utility, you go right ahead and change these to something else if you want - but else keep them.

    The Glyphs: Gives you that much needed CDR. As mentioned earlier, Nidalee's only limit in cougar form, is how often the abilities come off CD again - since they're not consuming any mana. I recommend getting Greater Glyph of Focus instead of Greater Glyph of Celerity. Nidalee is very dominant in the early/mid part of the game, and if the game drags out, she becomes more and more useless - so you want the most bang for your buck, in the early part of the game.

    The Quintessences: I've opted for -CDR Quintessences I've also changed the items around after, so you're further from the -CDR cap - so adding abit of extra -CDR from runes I think is the best option.

    I'm running with the -CDR/level instead of the static ones, but it really comes down to preference. If I had the static ones, I would probably change to those. You get the same benefit from the -CDR/level at level 13.

  • Summoner Abilities

    Summoner Abilities:

    This comes down to personal preference really.

    Cleanse just got buffed in patch, and it now removes silences and blinds aswell, which is enough for me to use it again. I'm currently using Cleanse/Ghost.

    The Flash and Ghost combo is still great for escaping/chasing and really makes Nidalee uncatchable if played right - so it's still a solid option.

    Again, pick what you're most comfortable with.

  • Skilling Order


    Aspect Of The Cougar > Primal Surge / Swipe > Javelin Toss / Takedown > Bushwhack / Pounce

    Sometimes it's better to get Bushwhack / Pounce at level 2, and start whacking them bushes to not get ganked. I usually pick it if there's a good chance they'll try to get me (shaco/eve on their team).

  • Items

    The items for a cougar:

    This is where the fun begins!


    The Start/The Early Game:

    Start out by getting:
    Doran's Ring. (475g)

    First time back:
    Boots of Speed. (350g)
    Blasting Wand. (860g)

    Proceed to get:
    Blasting Wand => Guinsoo's Rageblade (1375g).
    Boots of Speed => Ionian Boots of Lucidity (700g) or Mercury's Treads (850g).
    Optional: Mejai's Soulstealer

    Start/Early Game Cost (w/ Merc. Treads and no Mejais): 3910g


    The Mid/Late Game:

    For ganking and pushing, the next items should be:
    Sheen => Lich Bane. (3470g)
    Needlessly Large Rod => Rabadon's Deathcap. (3600g)

    If you did not get a Mejai's Soulstealer, I recommend grabbing the items in this order: Sheen > Needlessly Large Rod > Lich Bane > Rabadon's Deathcap.

    Mid/Late Game Cost: 7070g

    Total Cost: 10980g

    As Nidalee you're spamming your abilities a lot so a Lich Bane is a really obvious choice - and it'll boost your damage output nicely. The reason you're not rushing to this item or a Sheen is that they don't really offer you anything besides the proc-effect.
    An item such as Lich Bane is quite costly. So far none of the items has cost alot - topping with Guinsoo's Rageblade at 2235g - so they're fast to obtain. This is also partly why you want to skip getting it till the end game. You really don't want it to drag out this long - as mentioned, Nidalee can be a dominating force, but her usefulness is decreased the further along the game drags.

    If everything is going really well after you've gotten your Guinsoo's Rageblade, grab a Mejai's Soulstealer as the next item - it's a great boost if you get those stacks up. And you shouldn't really be dying as Nidalee. If it's not working out for your team, do what the list tells you to!

    If on the other hand your role is more of a support/Javelin nuke, get Void Staff instead of Lich Bane.


    The Reasoning:

    Doran's Ring is pretty self explanatory - MP/5 and HP provides better staying power in the lane, and since you've got your heal the only reason you should port back is when you need to buy items (in most cases).

    The reason for getting Guinsoo's Rageblade is also pretty straight forward: you're spamming your abilities like it's mating season (yes, I went there)! Cougar abilities does not consume any mana so keeping Guinsoo's Rageblade at full stack is easy - and you're using [Pounce] every 3rd second to get around the map which proc's the effect.

    So far you've been running around in Boots of Speed - so an upgrade is ofcourse necessary. I recommend getting either Ionian Boots of Lucidity or Mercury's Treads depending on the enemy team setup - it's your call. If the enemy team has barely any stuns, go for Ionian Boots of Lucidity and grab either Moonflair Spellblade or [item_text=Eleisa's Miracle] for the Tenacity. These are both viable alternatives, but it all depends on the enemy team setup.

    Last item to add to your core item build would be a Lich Bane. After you've gotten your Guinsoo's Rageblade you should grab a Sheen when you get the money for it - regardless if you can upgrade it straight away.


    These are what I'd call the core items as Nidalee. There are other more situational items you could get. After the change to Cleanse getting a Quicksilver Sash isn't a bad idea. This is the item I consider optional/alternative depending on the team setup etc.:

    Quicksilver Sash = After the change to Cleanse getting this isn't such a bad idea. Works wonders if facing Mordekaiser midlane - removes his ignite+ulti combo.

    Rylai's Crystal Scepter = This is an exceptional item if you're just starting out playing Nidalee, or feel like you're too squishy to take on anything. The slow is just an extra bonus, since you should be able to catch most enemies without it.

    Void Staff = Depending on your role in the team this item replaces Lich Bane. If you're taking down towers, pushing lanes or being a roaming ganker, Lich Bane is the item for you. However, if your role is to throw Javelins and nuke down targets, replace it with a Void Staff.

    Spirit Visage = This is a great item for Nidalee. -CDR, resistance/health and a nice boost to your own heal. I usually get this if I'm against a heavy caster team - or a Mordekaise in the midlane.

    Mejai's Soulstealer = If you can keep the stacks up on this, it's quite cost efficient. I'd recommend getting it right after your Guinsoo's Rageblade.

  • Playstyle


    Level 1-6:

    You want to be aggressive in your playstyle! Before you hit level 6 and get your cougar on, you want to be dominating your lane. Play aggressive, force the other guy to retreat and miss out on experience. Focus on last hitting the creeps, don't stand there and auto-attack away - you've got all the time in the world.
    I tend to play semi-defensively till I get my 2nd rank of Primal Surge / Swipe - then I start harassing the enemy. Every few seconds get a couple of auto-attacks in on him - if he starts attacking you, heal yourself up. It's only good if he attacks you, that way your own creeps will get on him as well. Position yourself at one of the sides, behind the enemy creep line - so you're between the enemy and your own creeps. This will keep him from getting gold.

    Since the latest patch, you're Primal Surge / Swipe isn't going to heal you as much as it used to - the base healing from the spell has been lowered while they've upped the AP scaling ratios. This is was done to nerf Nidalee's early game, and it's not really as noticeable later on - but it might force you to play a bit more defensive than you'd usually do.

    I wouldn't recommend throwing any Javelin Toss / Takedown unless you're sure you'll hit - it's mana in-efficient, and you don't really have the AP to pack a punch with it. If everything goes as planed, the guy will be on less than half HP when you reach level 6 - now you just need to finish him off.

    Level 6 and onwards:

    Harass! You want to keep a very strong presence in the game - make them fear for a gank every time they push more than half the lane. Don't forget to keep your own lane cleared. When you get the middle tower down, go help the other lanes - when you've got Guinsoo's Rageblade you'll be able to take towers down fast when you've got the extra attackspeed from your heal on aswell.

    This part of the game is also the part where it's your job to run around spamming them Bushwhack / Pounce at crucial locations on the map. Use them at the Golem/Lizard camp - this is your buffs, so get them Bushwhacks up!

    Since the patch ( the AP scaling ratio on Javelin Toss / Takedown was increased. This isn't really that noticeable (0.55 to 0.65), but a buff is a buff I guess. If you're good at aiming with your Javelin, you'll be able to do a ton of damage with it.


    You want to be careful here. Nidalee has excellent DPS and utility, but she is also very fragile when she gets caught - so you really don't want to get stuck in the middle of all the AoE and stuns being thrown around in the beginning phase.
    I tend to stand back and throw heals around - you can use the heal for the attackspeed buff as well just before engaging with cougar form. Another thing that's really beneficial for the team is the traps, try hitting a couple of them with it before initiating - the debuff left on them reduces their magical and armor resistances by 40% at max level.

    If you're staying in cougar form through the whole teamfight you're doing it wrong. You need to take advantage of the fact that your abilities in cougar doesn't cost any mana to use so you should pretty much always have enough mana to throw around a couple of heals here and there. Don't over extend and use up all of it, or heal everyone else to full and then die because it was on CD when you actually needed it - it's really not your 'job' doing that, leave it to one of the supporters. Getting off a heal on the carry isn't a bad idea either - 60% attackspeed for 8 seconds is pretty major.

    With an item build that focuses this strongly on AP your Javelin Toss / Takedown is going to hurt - a lot. Throw a couple of spears before engaging (it's pretty normal for a Javelin to take about 35-40% off the 'squishier' enemies at max range.). Another thing is getting buffs! You want to have at least the Golem Buff, so you can keep spamming Javelins/Heals on everyone, until your team decides to engage - it also caps out your CDR, which is awesome as cougar.

  • Tips and Tricks

    Tips and Tricks:

    There's alot of tricks you can do with Nidalee - her [Pounce] can get you over walls or other terrain which you normally can't pass. Knowing what walls are passable can help you get away at crucial moments.

    Another thing is the feature added a couple of patches ago - the smartcast. Not only does it alow you to heal yourself regardless of where your mouse is pointed, it also lets you cast Traps/Javelins without having to click where you want it to go. If you hold down 'Shift' when throwing a Javelin, or setting a trap, it will go towards the location of your mouse - saving you a mouse click in the process. I mostly use this for planting traps when running by something - it's also pretty useful when trying to get a fast Javelin off.

    * * UPDATE * *
    The increase in damage the Javelin Toss gets the further it flies, does not start 'adding' from where you stand when you throw it, but it adds the distance from where you are from the Javelin when it hits. So throwing a Javelin and running in the opposite direction will increase the damage of the Javelin - of course it's not always the smartest of ideas going the opposite direction of your throw, but if for instance throwing it at a guy unaware of your presence and/or porting back, it becomes quite useful.

    Here's some of pathways Nidalee can cross:

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