5.2 NEW NIDALEE JUNGLE IS INSANELY GOOD
The newest 5.2 patch in League of Legends has introduced a couple of interesting changes, specifically with Tristana and Ahri but if there’s one thing that’s taking over the waves and causing an unprecedented rise in popularity, it’s the fact that Nidalee is, quite literally, a beastly jungler now.
The biggest change is the fact that her “HUNT” passive not only applies to monsters now (giving her increased damage in the jungle) but also ROOTS the target in place for 2 seconds. Coupled with the fact that triggering her hunt resets her cooldowns in Aspect of the Cougar, you’re left with a very fast-paced jungler that fits the current meta.
Her playstyle in lane doesn’t really change much in the jungle with the exception of her rooting capabilities. If you’re already familiar with how Nidalee is generally played in lane, you will not have a problem utilizing her as a jungler. In order to be able to clear the camps fast enough, you’re going to have to utilize her hunt in three different ways:
(1) Offensively: that is, by making sure that your Q and W are hitting hunted targets for the most part
(2) Defensively: in early clears, this is extremely crucial in the sense that you have to leap (W) out of the large monster’s range so as not to lose much health
(3) A mix of both: After leaping out of the monster’s way, you’ll be able to deal more damage with your next spear due to the increased range. In some situations, you can also escape from harm’s way or traverse from one camp to another very fast by landing a long-range spear, triggering Hunt, then leaping to that camp.
SKILLS + JUNGLE ROUTE:
Once you’ve digested all the potential things you can do with her using this new role, the next step is to figure out which skill to start with and what camp / routes you will take. In all actuality, there is no definite answer. If you’re just starting out, you can invest one point into W, pounce to the Krugs ASAP, and plant 4 traps that are spaced apart well enough so the ancient Krug gets rooted for a total of 8 seconds. It’s also up to you if you want to place one of the first traps on the Ancient Krug’s spawn point then smite only after to proc the stun on your basic attack, OR smite only after the first trap’s duration has worn off, stunning it, then leading it to the next trap for even more CC. This seems way too complicated for the first camp but proper utilization of the roots and stuns means that you’ll be able to finish this first camp without losing half your health. You also have the option of pouncing in between the traps , getting the reduced cooldown from Hunted targets, then leap out before the next trap hits. Weaving back and forth this way ensures that you sneak in some much needed damage to be on par with the traditional junglers’ clear speeds (i.e lee sin) while still maintaining a healthy life total.
Head to red buff after and place a trap just before you throw your first spear. Immediately after triggering hunt, pounce, land a basic attack then Q just as it hits. You’ll be able to land one more basic attack before your W becomes available again. Leap out of the way, transform and lead the large monster to your previous trap. Trigger your passive, do your previous combo, leap out, then land a spear. If you do all this correctly, you would’ve taken close to half of the monster’s hp and still have him rooted in place for you to be able to kite around it efficiently. With the stun from smiting Ancient Krug still active, you’ll clear this camp with ease.
From hereon, you have to assess the situation carefully. Against midlaners, the best damage you can get from ganking would be from Cougar’s W and Q, followed by a close-range spear, triggering the reset, and doing W and Q all over again. The damage you get from landing all of this is insane. You can preempt all of this by flashing into your enemy and pouncing. Together with Red buff, it’s very impossible to escape the follow up spear unless they CC you or flash out as well. Another way to initiate this gank is to wait for the perfect time to land a spear from the bushes, and proceed with the combo. Alternatively, you can just forego the whole “gank mid” thing and proceed to the wolves, then blue buff and back for a ranger’s trailblazer, or leap into dragon and navigate the brush to steal/counterjungle your enemy’s blue buff.
DONE WITH MY FIRST CLEAR, NOW WHAT?
Keep in mind that Nidalee’s cleartime speeds up greatly at lvl 3 (once she has access to all of her skills) and coupled with Trailblazer means that the small monsters will normally be dead already with one W+E+ smite combo, reducing the damage you take in the long run. No matter which camps you decide to go to next, the overall clearing (with the exception of Gromp) method is the same. Land a spear, place a trap from afar, transform into a cougar, W+E+Q then leap out, lead the large monster to the trap, and do the whole thing again. You can sneak a heal or two in there if you really need some health but I generally don’t recommend it since you’ll be running out of mana fast that way. One thing that you might have noticed from all the description so far is that mastering Nidalee’s jungle not only requires you to have keen precision on enemy monster’s locations and movements (so that your spear doesn’t hit the little ones) and very fast hands. Those hunt resets are very crucial at ALL points of the game so you must endeavor to master the timing.
Your build path from thereon is also very flexible, if you’re going for the damage-dealing type, upgrade your trailblazer with the magus Enchantment ASAP. The increased AP and cooldown reduction makes you pounce faster. You don’t really need to worry about movespeed that much early game since hunt already gives you a good bonus and empowered W increases Nidalee’s leap range. A sorceress boots right after is generally the best upgrade coupled with lichbane, Rabaddon’s and the usual. You can sneak a tear of the goddess somewhere in between if you want to worry less about regulating your mana while keeping up with the other jungler’s standard cleartimes at this point. Without any mana to trigger hunt on monsters, Nidalee becomes noticeably slower. You can also utilize tried-and-tested alternatives on her as well. Iceborne Gauntlet against physical damage with additional utility is always good. A mid-game Morello’s also gives stats that every Nidalee player will benefit from.
With her long-distance spears and traps that you can leave in bushes while you cover the whole map, Nidalee offers high single-target damage with Hunt, massive map control, high mobility and is an equal threat offensively and defensively speaking that it definitely won’t be long before she gets hit with the nerf stick.