Irelia Build Guide by Aenemius
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Hi there! Aenemius from IDDQD Gaming here with an in-depth look at Irelia, the Will of the Blades.
Irelia's known as the biggest nerf-bait in the league - she's been rebalanced more times than any other champion in the game - both with sets of buffs and debuffs - to counter her overpowering ability set. As one of the hardest to crush assassins, she deals intense amounts of damage in longer sustained battles than most others of this class are capable of - usually with an almost full tank build.
For this reason, we wanted to spend some time getting to know Irelia's tolerances, and make some situational builds for her, before publishing this guide.
Riot's official champion spotlight:
The spotlight is ridiculously outdated - it was posted in November of 2010. This is another part of why we wanted to write a thorough guide for Irelia, for the current metagame.
- 2012-05-01 | Initial build written with Tankrelia as primary build. Testing begins.
- 2012-05-04 | Speedrelia panel and item mix added after a few overly successful games with Tankrelia.
Pros / Cons
The mastery setup I use for Irelia is a fairly common 21/9/0 setup valid on most AD DPS champs. I've opted for full-out damage in the AD mastery string, and some starting bonus health on the defense tree.
I've done this to play well with the high Armor Penetration and Attack Speed runes I'm using, as well as with the item build discussed later.
Greater Quintessence of Lethality
Greater Mark of Lethality
Greater Seal of Attack Speed
Greater Glyph of Attack Speed
For Irelia, I opted for a very aggressive rune set. Using Armor Penetration marks and quints, along with the AD DPS mastery set above, means level one armor penetration of 29.93 plus 10%, or 32.92 ArPen at level 1, with no items.
What does this mean? Most top-lane champions will stack a little armor in their runes, and be naturally beefy. For example, Garen starts with 19 armor; if he buys Doran's Shield to add 10 armor and has 9 Greater Seal of Armor adding 12.69 armor, then his physical damage defense is 41.69.
If Garen starts with an optimal 41.69 armor, and Irelia has 32.92 Armor Penetration - Irelia's damage is calculated as if Garen has only 8.77 armor. This is a significant advantage for Irelia, especially with a higher attack speed due to the seals and glyphs I'm using here.
As a rule of thumb, I usually use one mobility-centered Summoner Spell, and one utility - either defense or offence - depending on the champ class. For assassins and carries, I almost always run with Flash and Ignite.
|Flash is a go-to for me because of it's versatility. Need to chase? Flash ahead. Need to escape? Flash over a wall. Unless you're Hecarim and need Ghost for mobility, Flash is definitely a top choice.|
|If you're being backed by a support, or know you're playing against highly aggressive champs, Heal's a fantastic spell on Irelia. Her natural sustain with Hiten Style and Transcendent Blades makes her less squishy than the average assassin, but Heal is excellent for avoiding being crushed in a solo lane by two opponents, or being killed by high burst ganks.|
Note: Heal is fantastic on damage dealers, as it heals the caster significantly more than other champs around him/her. Because of that fact alone, if I'm in a dual lane, Heal goes on the carry and a utility spell like Exhaust or Clarity goes on the support.
|Ionian Fervor significantly increases Irelia's lane sustain and lowers susceptibility to ganks. The more enemy champions she's near, the less effective CC is on her - stacking this with a Tenacity item like Mercury's Treads (the most used one) means Irelia's very unlikely to be disabled for any reason for a long period of time.|
|Bladesurge is both Irelia's gap closer, and her main damage dealer. It's extremely fast (almost no warning) and refreshes on kill, allowing Irelia to pounce on enemy after enemy if you time her attacks well. In later game teamfights, this is a major cleanup engine in team fights. If your team plays along, it's entirely possible to pentakill due to the refreshes using Bladesurge alone.|
|Hiten Style is Irelia's major sustain ability, and part of the reason she is continually rebalanced. By adding a flat health regen per-hit, Hiten Style drastically improves with an attack-speed build, rather than damage the way lifesteal or spell vamp passives do. Hiten Style is what makes Irelia an excellent counter for dueling champs like Fiora or Poppy.|
|Equilibrium Strike is an important part of Irelia's combo not for damage, but for CC. Since levelling the skill increases the length of the slow/stun on the skill, it's attractive to level early - however, the damage output is lower than other skills due to being based on AP, rather than AD.|
|Transcendent Blades is Irelia's real secret weapon - not because of the damage output (which is not the best), but because of the built-in heal. Each of the 4 blades summoned by this ult can be fired while running away from an enemy team, through terrain, or into a teamfight. While it does do enough damage to secure kills, I've found it useful to hurl a blade or two into another champ's duel, for the sake of grabbing up assists I otherwise wouldn't have had.|
This is where things get interesting; items on Irelia really depend on how well your game is going at the beginning and mostly come in two key flavor combinations: Tankrelia and Speedrelia.
||This combination is the standard meta for early game Irelia - and it's incredibly strong on her for a reason. Irelia's natural burst once she has all three skills (Or even just Q and E if you're building for burst instead of sustain) is terrifying. Because of this, gaining this core any time before level 7 essentially wins you the lane. Double GP/5 from Philosopher's Stone and Heart of Gold aids Irelia's natural CS farm capability. Tenacity from Mercury's Treads plus their Magic Resist helps with ganks from most prominent junglers; the regen and flat health of these items also works well with her.|
Secondary Build - Tankrelia
||Which of these items comes first depends on how the match is going. Kicking ***? Rush Infinity Edge. Having issues with sustain? Rush your Warmog's Armor. AP carry roaming? Force of Nature is your friend.
In most matches, I'll grab my B. F. Sword immediately and work on damage mitigation before finishing IE. It's just good practice.
Secondary Build - Speedrelia
||The major difference between choosing Speedrelia or Tankrelia is the need for damage mitigation early on. If you manage to outfarm your opponent easily, and harass them - or even get first blood - damage mitigation is less of a priority than flat out bursting. Switching out Warmog's Armor for Trinity Force means more damage by way of the Sheen proc, more utility, and more overall burst damage.
In addition to the damage and utility from Triforce, Frozen Heart is a good combo item for speeding up your burst recovery in teamfights, and damage mitigation in cooldown.
Farming with Irelia is just silly in it's efficiency. If you happen to be left to farm minions - or are with a lane partner who has an AoE damage which can make a large number of minions last-hit ready quickly using Bladesurge with it's on-kill refresh to rip through large groups of creeps is where Irelia shines.
Early game, her speed of clear makes her a natural pusher - so be aware that unless you're very passive in your farming, you may end up stuck under the enemy tower fast. This is a bad thing. Stay backed off - while you're melee, Bladesurge's range is pretty far.
One thing to note; Irelia's lack of AOE outside her ult makes her a poor farmer in late game. Not having tools like Galio's Resolute Smite, which can nuke 20-30 minions in one shot if done right, makes her late game a bit slower. Transition to the jungle around level 14 if you can manage it and need the gold or buffs.
Bladesurge can also be a great scare tactic, if you're confident in your ability to sustain a few hits. Blink in to kill creeps right underneath the enemy champion as often as possible. If you're lucky with it, either the enemy champ will back off because they think they're being focused - or will start to attack you and take their focus off their farm.
Also of note; Irelia's swing-timer is front loaded. This means damage from attacks happens very near the beginning of the animation, rather than near the end like the majority of melee champs. Because of this, the auto-attack immediately following Bladesurge happens more quickly than usual. If you happen to rush Sheen as part of a higher damage build, Bladesurge/attack will appear to do a very significant amount of damage.
This being said, attacks following Equilibrium Strike appear to be very slow, sometimes non-existent. It's worth dropping a quick right-click into your target part way through or immediately after the skill animation, to make sure you keep on target and don't just stand there looking like a fool.
I haven't included a jungle component on this guide for a very important reason: Irelia is simply wasted in the jungle.
While her blink, slow, and sustain in theory make her an excellent jungler, she's far stronger holding a lane against an enemy. Other champs, like Hecarim and Nocturne are far more appropriate junglers than Irelia ever could be, and keeping her on top with either of those, or another dominant ganker, in the jungle is best.
This is not to say Irelia isn't a viable jungler; she has the right kit for it. However, I simply believe other champions better suited to that role should keep it.
As Solo Top
Where bot lane usually has a ranged AD carry and a support (either sustain support or tank) as a standard pair, I tend to think of solo top and jungle roles being intrinsically tied.
As a high mobility, high sustain top lane champ, Irelia is best paired with weaker gankers who have better counter jungling capabilities early on. Champions such as Shyvana and Sejuani, who aren't at their peak until level 6, work well to keep top lane suppressed with Irelia.
Stronger gankers like Warwick, Nocturne and Hecarim have the mobility and pounce strength to cover Irelia when she's being focused and crushed - generally due to her built-in slow with Equilibrium Strike.
In team fights, it's very important to keep Irelia focused on one person - even moreso than the average assassin. Her initial burst is massive, and it's a big part of why she's nerfed so often.
One thing to consider, as with farming, is that Bladesurge refreshes it's cooldown and refunds mana on kills. So blinking through a number of very low health champs or minions to mop up at the end of an engagement is intentional - and important to do if your carry has gone down during the fight. Even if it feels like kill stealing, securing multiple kills with your blink quickly means fallen allies get assist gold and credit - which can add up significantly over time.
As Bot Assassin
Assassins as the secondary champ in a bot lane is not common in higher level play at the moment. Mixing support and AD carry generally has much more potential for a team in the end game - however, there are instances where someone like Irelia can make a viable second bot champ.
If you're dealing with a high-poke support on the opposite team - such as Lulu or Sona - then playing a low-poke support is a challenge. Augmenting the harass of a strong, high range AD carry such as Caitlyn or Ashe with Irelia can often mean denying any farm and significant amounts of levels to enemy champs.
Having an assassin on bot as an alternative to support also means ganks from enemy junglers carry a very high risk factor for the jungler - so they are less likely to drop on you. This can put other lanes in jeopardy from repeated ganks. It's worth considering how strong your other lanes are likely to be before choosing Irelia as your bot champ. If your team is high aggro and beefy - Ryze mid and Garen top for example - Irelia is a fine choice for bot assassin roles.
While she's incredibly strong as a solo laner, Irelia can be countered easily by some highly tanky, or high burst champions. LoL Counters has an extensive list of champs, mechanics, and items which counter Irelia strongly - but some are far more effective than others.
Thornmail is bad for you as Irelia - stop slapping yourself, stop slapping yourself!
Olaf and Wukong are the worst. Decoys and "Can't Be Disabled" will ruin your day for sure.
Surprisingly, though LoL Counters lists Nasus as a counter for Irelia, I've never found him to be any kind of real problem. She has simply too much harass for him to farm effectively without taking a lot of risk.
As always, I expect this guide to be a work in progress. Posting this immediately before the Varus update has me a bit nervous about changes to the overall meta - but those will happen whether we like them or not.
In short, there are very good reasons why Riot consistently rebalances Irelia. Her kit is intensely versatile, and her statistics make for a very maleable build set. Everything from straightup tank to full on AD carry builds work on her - if they suit the player's style.
Feedback is welcomed as always - and please do vote if you liked the guide. If not; tell me why, or what needs to improve.
Thanks for reading!