Guide: Playing Nidalee in a post-nerf world

Leopard Nidalee.

Nidalee used to be at the top of my most-hated toon list. She was impossible to run down, near impossible to lane against, and devastating to anyone but the thickest of tanks. She received a string of nerfs that slowly but surely brought her down from the godlike status she once held, but she can still be very strong in the right hands. Eradicator for some advice on playing Nidalee so I thought I’d throw together a quick guide.

Nidalee Basics
Nidalee is one of the more complex toons in that she has four human form skills, one of which makes her a cat, which gives her a new set of three skills. Most players play Nidalee as AP these days in order to capitalize on her abilities in both forms. Nidalee, like many toons, was hit pretty hard by the Sheen/Trinity Force/Lichbane nerf, but she can still perform very well. Her heal scales very well with AP, her trap scales slightly with AP, and her javelin is deadly with even a little bit magic penetration. As with many casters, I like to focus on a magic pen build, and rushing Zhonya’s once you’re in position to do so.

Laning with Nidalee is pretty simple. Attack, heal, attack some more. She can kill off creep waves very quickly with the attack speed buff from Primal Surge, so use it as often as your mana allows. Primal Surge also gives you the ability to harass and take a few creep hits, heal yourself, and use the attack speed buff to get the minions down. Make sure you take one rank of each skill before six, though, or your cat form will be severely gimped.

Once you hit six you should be farming very quickly. Try to get a lane against a squishier toon if you can. It will make it that much easier for you to trap, Pounce, and Swipe the caster minions for quick gold and then finish off the melee and push. Remember, as a healer you can afford to stand and attack towers with your opponent attacking you so long as you don’t have tower aggro. Heal through their damage and keep pushing. A lot of players make the mistake of burning through mana to harass Nidalee when she can just heal right through it. Let them. When you’re on their tower they’ll have nothing left.

Nidalee’s passive allows her to traverse the map very quickly (though not as quickly as a certain champion). Use the brush for a little speed bump to get you to the next lane for a gank. I roll Flash/Ghost in most cases to maximize my mobility. If your ganking partner has a snare, let them snare, toss a javelin from as far as you can reliably land it (you’ll want to get good at this), Cougar Form and run in, making sure to land your pounce on your target. Swipe -> Take down and your target should either be dead or very close to it. If he flashes away, Human Form -> Javelin Toss. Nidalee’s greatest weakness in a ganking situation is her lack of CC. For this reason, positioning is everything. Make sure you strafe your opponents from the side whenever possible to maximize the amount of time you can deal damage to them. Ganking with a stun/snare partner makes your life much easier.

Nidalee is best suited to taking down carries/squishies. Group with teammates before a fight and focus on harassing with Javelin Toss before the fight starts. You can easily hit an enemy carry for 20-30 percent of his HP with just a little bit of magic pen. Land two of those and that carry has to go heal or risk dying very quickly in the upcoming fight.

When the fight starts, get to the carries by whatever means necessary. Seriously. Flash to them, ghost into the mix and Pounce. It is your sole responsibility to burn the carries and get out before the tanks can get on top of you. With the current CC/high-HP DPS metagame, this has become much harder. Nidalee is a good toon, but only in the right comp. She’s a poor choice as a first, second, or even third pick in my opinion. You need to see that your enemy has a shortage of CC. If they have 4-5 stuns/slows, pick a different toon. If there’s a squishy or two and one to two hard CC characters, you should be fine. Remember, your heals scale incredibly well with AP, so don’t be afraid to get a little low in order to bring down that Ashe/Ezreal. Heal up, and loop back around to support your teammates.

Make try to drop traps in the line of an impending team fight when possible. The magic resist/armor reduction can make the difference between a dead enemy tank and one that lives to fight. It’s a very strong skill, and if you have Rylai’s, it puts a slow on the trapped target, too. Speaking of traps, use them as often as possible. Most players ward in very common places – the little brush about a quarter of the way from middle to a side lane is almost always warded – giving you the chance to counter them. Trap their wards, Primal Surge and burn it down. Killing the enemy vision gives your team the chance to set up ganks deep in enemy territory.

My skill build is based on the following priority with the simple exception that you take one rank of your Pounce/Trap skill before six. After that, it’s the last skill you rank.

Cougar Form -> Primal Surge -> Takedown -> Trap

As for items, I’d recommend Sorc Boots, Haunting Guise, Zhonya’s, Rylai’s, Abyssal and Lichbane as solid items. Use your discretion on Lichbane, though. The nerf really did hurt the damage it provides a lot of characters, especially someone as spammy as Nidalee. Basically, you won’t want to spend all your time in cougar like you might be used to. Get out of form, use your heals/javelins to support your team. Nidalee is still a strong support character, but she is a far cry from the carry she used to be. Don’t forget that.

Hopefully this helps you understand Nidalee’s position in a team and her strengths against enemy teams. Remember, Nidalee cannot be forced into any team comp, but when the mix is right, she can be a lot of fun.


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