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There has been lately a lot of discussion, I feel, about our favourite cougar. Namely, how one champion can almost single-handedly decide a game simply by not completely failing her lane and using a single 4 second CD skillshot. Nidalee can, with just one or two javelins, push an entire team off of their turret while giving them very little opportunity to engage on her. I can feel it in my bones that, regardless of whether or not this should remain the case, that there will be an answer from Riot about 'spear2OP'. So I then propose this, to generate topical discussion, but mostly to point out a much bigger, unhealthier problem that Nidalee has. One that has almost been pardoned because of how much power her spears have, and will of course come to the foreground if that power is taken away.
Without ado, the rework:
The Changes and Why I Did them
The focus on this rework was two-fold: answer the problem that was Nidalee’s ultra-safe ultra-high damage with her spears, but also answering the bigger problem with Nidalee. If you actually look at her, from a design perspective Nidalee is actually a horrible champion. One of her most unique features, her transformation ult, is so poorly executed with the mechanics. You could replace Nidalee’s entire cougar form with Pounce, and her core gameplay would not change at all.
The thing is that her human form and her cougar form are completely disjunctive from each other; there isn’t really a smooth way to use both of them together. The human form rewards players from staying as far away from the enemy as possible, while the cougar form tries to coax you into close range. Jayce has a very similar concept to Nidalee: a range mode that lets him poke and kite, and a melee form that brings a lot of point-blank execution style damage. The thing is with Jayce though is that the two forms flow into each other. He gets a movespeed burst that allows him to either close the gap when going into Hammer stance or help him kite back when in Cannon stance. And also, his Acceleration Gate, a Cannon mode ability, actually helps his Hammer stance immensely by giving him another movespeed burst to get him into melee range faster. Going back to Nidalee, you are usually way too far back when you land a spear that you can’t just switch to Cougar and pounce in. Nidalee should have something resolving the mechanical gap between her forms that allows her to close the literal gap between her and her opponents.
Cougar Form Overview
First of all, I made Cougar form available at level 1 like other form-switching ultimates. This should make it more apparent that the two forms need to be used together for proper champion effectiveness. As a result, all the Cougar form abilities need to be levelled up individually, as opposed to levelling up automatically with the ultimate. Having the Cougar form available at level 1 means that alternate bruiser builds are much more viable since they no longer have to slog through the weaker early game they have being stuck in human form.
I do realize that this makes the abilities of her Cougar form that she doesn't level weaker in the early game, whereas currently all her cougar abilities remain equal in power with each other. As an aside, it might be interesting to allow form-switching champions the option to apply ranks to separate abilities when they level up, like leveling your Q for one mode but your E for another. I would imagine this would be implemented through the game UI in a similar fashion to how evolving Kha’zix’s abilities works, with a second bar coming up for your other form.
In general, I feel Cougar form has everything it needs for close range skirmishing in terms of mechanics. Most of the changes were just number adjustments to reflect the abilities being scaled individually. I did change Pounce to a cursor-focused cast similar to Riven’s Valor to help make Pounce more consistent when using it to aggress an opponent. It also reduces the difficulty of using it to jump walls: all players need is to know which walls are thin enough to be jumped through. Admittedly, I liked how the ability to use Pounce as a wall jumper was a mark of a true skill, something that separated good Nidalees from amazing Nidalees. The problem was always casting Pounce in the direction she is walking makes it very difficult to use it as a damage source, since you have to take an extra second to get Nidalee facing the direction you want. Making it easier to use was important for promoting the use of Cougar form in a spell rotation.
Swipe can be cast while moving, letting her stick to her opponents much harder. I also peeled back the strength of her Takedown’s execute damage, mostly to pre-emptively balance the Bruiser Nidalee build.
With the Ultimate itself, I gave back the resistances to help her with jumping in but limited it to a 5 second buff so it doesn’t give free long-term survivability. I added the free-spell effect for Human-form switching give Nidalee more reason to manage both of her forms. A time limit on the bonus spell promotes using this effect in clutch moments, such as sniping a nearly dead opponent in the back as they run away, or getting a heal to survive that extra half second under tower, and hopefully prevents abuse on what should be a largely mana-exhaustive kit.
Her passive remains unchanged. I feel like she should have something that ties into her ult, but I wasn’t sure what to give her that would stand out from Jayce or Elise and still fit in with her kite-then-fight playstyle.
Since Javelin was going to need a power nerf anyways, I decided to use this skill as the one that would help close the gap between the forms. Took away the damage over distance and raised the base damage to compensate, but I liked the idea of a power-with-distance skill shot though. The result was giving Javelin a distance-sensitive slow. Without it, you have to flash in in order to execute your lane opponent after nailing them with a proper-distance spear. You shouldn’t have to rely on a summoner spell to make your champion’s ability rotation work. This still rewards Nidalee to be safe and far away from her opponent, but giving her the gateway that she needs to close the gap on a low health target. She can also use the slow to help her kite, but since the slow only comes into effect after her auto attack range (just like the extra damage did), she is still in trouble if assassins are already on top of her.
It also makes her more manageable for the enemy in sieges. She can still poke with good distance, but it won’t force people away from the tower after one or two hits. And obviously just dropping an opponent to low health doesn’t mean she can just dive into the team. The slow would allow her to synergize better with poke and siege comps since her slow would allow other teammates to follow up with their poke. It also gives her something to help her team engage.
Cooldown increased to properly match up with the slow duration.
I wasn’t originally planning on reworking this ability too much, but I feel that the trap is incredibly overlooked and just used as a pseudo-ward. The ability to remotely detonate a trap makes it more useful to her as a laning tool; the zone control goes with the pokey-kitey style of her human form, and it helps balances out the loss of power from the javelin nerf. The cast range was reduced to not make it super safe like her spear was, making sure Nidalee still needs to mind her position.
I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to handle her healing. I considered replacing it entirely, but I was at a lost for what to replace it with. I reduced the scaling, buffed the base amount, increased the early cooldown, and made half of it over time, meaning that you can still burst her down without getting an entire skill’s worth of damage refunded from her heal. I considered changing the attack speed to a movement speed buff, but Nidalee already has enough move speed to help her catch up to a speared enemy.
Things I Want to Know
No doubt you’ve already formed your own opinions about the changes I have proposed. But I want to take this time to directly pose some very specific questions I’d like you to think about. These are all questions I started asking myself when I tackled this, and some of these I have not yet answered for myself.
-Do you think Nidalee’s passive needs to be changed? Should it tie into her form-changing mechanic like with Jayce, or should it be something different? Does she deserve a slow? Or does she have enough utility between her mobility, healing, and traps?
-How do you feel about the ability to activate her traps as a second damage source for her human form? Do you think most of Nidalee’s direct damage should stay in her cougar form? Do you think it's too much micro-managing for a Champion of Nidalee's skillcap?
-Should Nidalee’s heal be reworked mechanically, or is it just a number tweak that it needs? Do you think she should get it replaced? What might you replace it with?
-Should she gain a benefit when switching to her ranged form?
-Should she get her cougar form at level 1 like Elise and Jayce?
-Should her cougar abilities cost mana?
-Given the above changes, how might you build her? Do you think AD bruiser Nidalee would be as popular if-not more than her current popular build style? Or do you think people would still trend towards AP Nidalee?
-Do you think Nidalee’s Cougar abilities should get more AD scaling, to define the Cougar form as a melee bruiser and the human form as a long range mage? Or do you think she should stay as primarily AP?
-Do you feel like she has been buffed or nerfed overall with this rework?
I think we all know that Nidalee will be getting fairly substantial adjustment in the future. While I obviously like the way I approached it here, everybody will have their own idea of the best way to go about it. The only thing I want out of the rework is for Riot to realize how horribly disconnected the human and cat forms are, and try to reconcile them so that they flow together. The way she is now, she has 6 abilities outside of her ultimate, but only needs to use 3 to have the impact that she currently has. Simply having the option of extra abilities does not justify the abilities being there; for proper, healthy design, the champion’s entire kit should feel impactful for Nidalee, her teammates, and her opponents. With this rework's focus towards using Human form to kite and widdle down opponents then using Cougar form to execute, Nidalee should still feel impactful and dangerous, but with all her abilities, and not just one or two spears on 4 second cooldown.
A Note to the Mods: I was unsure of what categories to attach to this blog. There was no "Rework" or "Custom Rework" category, so I put this one in blog posts, since the goal was to propose my opinion and generate discussion. I remain at your mercy.