May 23rd, 1:45am America/New_York

Nidalee, Flavor of The Week

Andrew "callmedru" M on Thu, 02/28/2013 10:51AM

In League of Legends, we currently have over 110 champions and counting available at our disposal should we so chose to play them. What exactly is the gap between an overplayed champion, and a hardly played champion? What is considered as "Ban Worthy" to professional teams, and amateur teams alike? Let's explore this further with this weeks "Flavor of the Week."
League Championship Series

Week 3 of the North American LCS (League Championship Series) has showcased a handful of the champions available to play in League of Legends, we've seen 42 out of 110 currently released champions being picked or banned. In competitive play, teams are given 3 bans each on heroes that they do not wish to see played in game. Last week, Nidalee the Bestial Huntress was banned in 80% of the games last week, and in the week prior she was picked or banned in four of the eight games played in the week of North American LCS.

Let's get a bit more in-depth to Nidalee's formula to success. Beginning with a quick recap of her skills and and a short introduction to her play style as a high poke damage AP Carry.

Nidalee is a truly unique character in League of Legends, as she was the first character to have a "second form" with an additional set of abilities. Her ultimate allows her to transform into a Cougar, and gain access to three new abilities: Takedown, Pounce and Swipe.

The duality between Human and Cougar form has primarily allowed players to build Nidalee in one of two ways during the course of the LCS. The first way Nidalee can be built as, is as an AP carry (with just an Athene's Unholy Grail, Void Staff and Rabadons Deathcap, for example) primarily to focus on her Q skill Javelin Toss to poke enemy champions into submission, or finish of a running low HP target.

The second way that Nidalee can be built is as an AD Bruiser, focusing on Health, Armor and Attack Damage (Mercury Treads, Frozen Mallet, Warmogs, and a Sunfire Cape for example) whose primary focus is to stay ontop of squishy targets such as AD Carries and the AP Carries using her Cougar form for mobility and added tankyness. In this article I will be focusing more towards the AP carry build, which focuses on poking from a far range.

The farther it hits, the more it does!

Most players in League of Legends can admit to having won or lost a game entirely because of a Nidalee. Be it due to a 20 minute inhibitor tower, or a full range Hail Mary Javelin from the shadows outside of base onto an AD Carry for 90% of its hitpoints. Those with the best understanding of Nidalee are those who play her often, and know the satisfaction of landing one of the hardest to hit skillshots in the game.

Something about Nidalee, that isn't seen in many other AP mids or Top laners is that you can't really shut her down; no matter what her scenario is lane wise, a Nidalee will always find farm. Her Primal Surge will give her enough attack speed to last hit under a tower with ease, and sustain herself against a tough lane. If a laner and Jungler can't instantly blow up a Nidalee while stun locking her, catching a pouncing Nidalee is one of the most frustrating thing in League of Legends. Without mobility boots, and a low cooldown gap closing ability, it's extremely difficult, and likely to not work.

The reason why a lot of players pick the tanky/bruiser build for Nidalee, and play her top is because they enjoy the mobility, and split pushing aspect of the champion; but they don't enjoy the inconsistency of landing Javelins. AP Nidalee's Javelin is the only ranged magic spell that she has in her arsonal, although it scales phenomenally well with AP- if you miss your skill shots; you will ultimately do no damage. This fact alone makes AP Nidalee not entirely suited for every player, a staple of the character is to be able to land the skill shots with consistency.

In a 1v1 scenario vs most other burst AP casters will be a close fight, but she can lose over half of her burst potential if she doesn't land a Javelin; or hits one at a close range as opposed to max range. At level 3 ultimate and level 5 spear her burst potential is roughly 230 to 575 (min / max range spear) + (Switch to Cougar form) + 225 (Pounce) + 300 (Swipe) + 100 to 300 (take down) = 855 to 1400 depending on the HP of a target. If she misses the Javelin, the total burst turns to 625 - 885 depending on HP. For example, I'm going to compare damage potentials with a level 18 Annie. Annies Disintigrate will do 245, incinirate will do 280, and Tibbers will do 450 with 35 damage per second as Tibbers is out. Annies burst total comes out to 975 not including Tibbers damage after summoned; which is can be up to 300 more damage more than Nidalee's burst.

One of the downsides to Nidalee, is that most AP mages (such as Annie, Ryze, Leblanc) have skill sets that are entirely ranged and have easily accessible CC; and a lot of the time are even targetable. Although Nidalee has 7 skills (5 of which are damaging) Nidalee only has a Javelin to hit ranged targets, and she must get in melee range to access her cougar form abilties to do damage, which will often expose her to a heavy amount of damage.

The lack of available crowd control (CC) from Nidalee makes her a risky pick against teams that lack in the ability to lock down targets, but with Javelin picking Nidalee in conjunction with a team with a lot of CC has its benefits. Hitting a stationary target with a skillshot is much easier than it is to hit one that's dodging, so logically you don't want a Nidalee with a team with little to no abilities to impair enemy movement.

In conclusion :

I believe that Nidalees mixture of poke and split push abilities make her one of the strongest tower siegeing champions in the League of Legends, and she is the only Champion to have her skill kit. An extremely long ranged high damage poke, easy wave clearing capabilities and an attack speed buff/heal. Her high skill cap makes her not used as sucessfully in the lower ELO's, as you need to focus on both positioning and hitting your skillshots, as her Javelin Toss is an ability that is extremely easy to learn, although it truly is hard to master.

The rewards of hitting a full range Javelin past 40 minutes almost guarantees a tower, with the aid of Primal Surge to a carry to aid in the demolition. Or even force a 4v5 initiate, which makes Nidalee much more useful in the late game. Her downside is the lack of CC, and the possiblity of doing low/no damage if the player misses Nidalee's spears. I believe she can be an extremely strong pick for the Mid lane, with the right team composition.

Teams with a Nidalee AP Carry should ideally be able to lock down targets, and be tanky enough to last in a fight without Nidalee in it; as she should be farther back healing allies and landing high range spears, only going into cougar form near the end of the fight to chase down stragglers and execute low HP targets with Take Down. Without such a team composition, team fights will be much harder unless the team and the Nidalee are extremely skilled in kiting.

Regardless of team composition, if a Nidalees team makes it past 30 minutes sieging towers becomes a game of target practice for a Nidalee, as her Javelin Toss has 1,500 range, so if you're a good shot, why not play her?

Picks/bans and damage information taken from Leaguepedia.

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