Build Guide by seltavankest
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Irelia is an extremely versatile champion, and extremely fun to play. I simply saw her at about level 14, thought "That sounds fun", bought an IP boost and farmed 6300 IP the same night/morning. Once I had her, I tried to make myself enjoy her after playing Caitlyn for about 20 hours straight. It just didn't happen. I found it impossible to last-hit on her, I felt completely out of my depth and I really just didn't find anything that great about her. But I'd spent a sleepless night getting her, so I decided that I would play her regardless, and force myself to like her. A few days later, it just clicked how amazingly powerful and fun a champion she was, and now I have no idea why I didn't like her to start with. As I've climbed my way to 30, she's remained my favourite champion throughout.
First off, this is my first build here. I'm not going to say this is the only way to play Irelia, or post screenshots of my stats, or claim that if you play any other way, you're wrong. Additionally, I'm aiming this at someone who knows nothing about Irelia, and have offered some tips for people who are just starting to play the game and want to give her a try, since when I first started playing her, that's what I really wanted (and never found) from the guides here.
This most certainly isn't the only way to build Irelia, it's based on my play-style, so if you don't have good results with it, please do try another build or make one for yourself that suits you.
Screenshots? Well, I don't personally believe that kills = good build/player, particularly because of Irelia's particularly vicious kill-stealing capabilities, and those stats could be a result of otherwise poor team play in favour of getting high kills purely for the sake of screenshots for a guide such as this.
Finally, everyone plays champions differently. There are certain things everyone who plays the champions well does and doesn't do, but there are nuances of playing each champion, such as starter items, favouring certain runes, masteries and summoner spells, that are individual to the people who play those champions. I worked this build out after the 22.214.171.124b changes to Irelia, as she was feeling a bit squishier than she was before with my fully damage build, and I'm a strong believer in melee being capable of taking a fair amount of damage and, if necessary, suicide when the tank dies to save the carries and ranged. Yes, I know, lots of people say not to take Warmog's Armor on Irelia, but I have my reasons, which I will explain later. If you have a problem with it, then don't get it yourself, get something else in place of it, and I have offered some alternatives in my Items section.
So, if you think this build looks decent, then feel free to give it a try. If you comment, try to keep it constructive. Thank you!
Greater Mark of Desolation
Greater Quintessence of Desolation
Fairly self-explanatory. Armour penetration items are a waste of gold when they can be replaced by high damage items, and as an assassin, you should use your gold for as many high damage items as possible. Getting armour penetration quintessences and marks gives you enough to get past base armour stats.
Greater Seal of Defense
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Because I believe that all melee should be able to tank a bit of damage to save their ranged team-mates, defensive stats are vital. This will also allow you to stay in lane longer during early game. I take per level runes because I don't plan to build either stat in items, but Greater Seal of Armor and Greater Glyph of Magic Resist can be substituted if you feel you need the stats to get through early game (ideally, you shouldn't, but as I said before, everyone plays differently, and you should play how you feel the most comfortable).
Greater Glyph of Scaling Cooldown Reduction
I don't personally focus on cooldown reduction on Irelia because her cooldowns already scale so well with her level, paired with the last-hit function on Bladesurge, and with my build, you will already have 30% cooldown reduction, alongside other useful stats. I do know that her Trancendent Blades turn into something ridiculous like a 23 second cooldown at 40% CDR, but I personally can't really justify losing the defensive stats in favour of maxing CDR. I honestly don't think having 30% CDR feels weaker than having 40%.
Greater Mark of Attack Speed and/or Greater Quintessence of Attack Speed
Again, down to play-style. The extra attack speed can make her extremely hard to beat and help her rack up the kill score, but I feel it almost nerfs your damage, because you're sacrificing armour penetration, which is minimal on items, and not present on enough items that provide other useful stats, whereas crit is present on plenty of items that also offer AD. Since crit can be capped purely from items, if you wanted to cap it on Irelia for some very peculiar reason, you could do it without losing the armour penetration.
Going offence on Irelia is a no-brainer. She's an assassin and a very effective one at that. If you have defensive runes, you shouldn't need the masteries, but if you're going to build her more tanky, then take them (and I wouldn't advise using this guide for a tanky Irelia).
I go 9 points into Utility because I personally like the experience boost and the wee bit of extra gold. Some people debate that it's not worth it, but even 5 gold every 10 seconds can make the difference in terms of when you get Sheen, and an earlier Sheen means you're suddenly a much more powerful Irelia, which is extremely important to your lane and your team.
Flash gives you an almost guaranteed escape. With the stun/slow from Equilibrium Strike used or a Transcendent Blades to keep you alive long enough to use this spell, it is highly effective.
This is my personal preference, because it allows me to get an early kill for my lane. This puts the enemy champion behind on experience and gold, and leaves me free to farm in peace. It doesn't lose its usefulness in mid-late game, either. Throwing it on a squishy champion before focusing them is an almost guaranteed kill.
Clarity is something I only take for other people. If you're laning with a mana-intensive champion or against an aggressive team that force you to blow mana to stay alive, you may need it. I would reccomend it for players who are just starting out, because it really does allow you to learn Irelia without having to recall too often.
Not my personal favourite, but it does have a lot of strong uses. It can be used for chasing, escaping and initiating, and keeps a lot of control on the fight for your team. Exhaust targets that are a guaranteed kill for your team before they try to run away.
Ionian Fervor - Passive
Ionian Fervor reduces the duration of stuns, slows, fears, taunts, snares and immobilises at an increased amount per nearby visible enemy champion. Basically, this is Tenacity in passive skill form, but it does stack with Tenacity.
Bladesurge - Active
Bladesurge causes Irelia to charge forward to a targeted enemy and do attack damage and apply on-hit effects (like Sheen). If you kill a target with it, the cooldown refreshes and half the mana cost is returned to you. You can move through thin walls with Bladesurge if there is enough space in the range circle for you to fit behind the target. However, sometimes, you will charge anyway and hit the wall (usually this only happens around destroyed turrets). When this happens, the damage will still occur, you just won't land behind your target.
Because of the effectiveness of Bladesurge and Sheen, I max this out early. Use it sparingly to last hit minions early game, Irelia's mana pool isn't big enough to sustain using it for every last hit you want, so take the time to last hit with her auto-attacks and use it primarily to last-hit a minion that's too close to an enemy champion for you to go in without being certain you'll get out again. If you make sure you're attacking another minion before targeting the one you want to kill, you'll run back automatically, keeping you from getting caught out by your enemies. Bladesurge also makes a highly effective harass, provided you're paired up with a tank or support.
Hiten Style - Passive
Causes Irelia's physical attacks to restore health.
Causes Irelia's physical attacks to deal true damage for 6 seconds.
Try to use Hiten Style's active before charging in with Bladesurge on a champion. This will ensure that when you hit them, the damage done will be completely un-mitigated, particularly on tanky champions. You can also use the true damage bonus on turrets, making them go down that little bit faster.
Equilibrium Strike - Active
A targeted ability that causes a small amount of magic damage as well as slowing the target. If the target is on a higher percentage of health than Irelia, she will stun it instead.
I love this ability because I believe the mechanic requires you to think about health in a different way. Equilibrium Strike means that lower health than your enemy is not always a bad thing, and allows you to chase a low-health target effectively. If you've almost been killed in a lane, try to stay long enough to get to about 70% health, and try to stay on that amount. If you use a potion, you can position yourself so that minions hit you, getting your health just below your opponent's so that you can land a stun on them and hopefully kill them.
Transcendent Blades - Active
On the first click, Irelia will prepare four blades. The ready effect of the blades appears as a buff and you will have a set amount of time to throw all four blades towards your mouse cursor. She will be healed 20% of the damage done to champions and 10% of the damage done to minions.
I use Transcendent Blades in four ways:
1. Chasing/turret diving from a distance - A low health target can go down fast due to the 1,200 range on this ability.
2. Clearing minion waves quickly - If a lane isn't safe but needs to be pushed back, you can jump in, spam Transcendent Blades, Bladesurge any minions that are still alive, then get out, all in less time than it will take your enemies to reach you.
3. Healing - If you've been caught out and pulled almost to death, then running away while spamming your blades behind you into the chasing enemies can save your life. The heal on this ability also allows you to stay in lanes longer, or stay in for a team fight.
4. Whittling down health - Transcendent Blades makes a really good harass, particularly now that it's damage is AD and it gains more damage from AD than AP. You can half a squishier champion's health and keep them back from minion waves with it, allowing you to farm at will.
I don't intentionally try to fight my opponents in lane until level 5. At level 5, most champions are relying on their ultimate to win them the lane, but you'll have all three abilities and a rank 3 Bladesurge. If I'm going for a kill in a lane, I don't use Hiten Style until after using Bladesurge. The reason is pretty simple: Hiten Style has an animation that turns the circle where Irelia's blades meet yellow, and will give away your intentions to your opponent. So, in lane, I always Bladesurge > Equilibrium Strike > Hiten Style. If my opponents see me coming (i.e. in mid-late game), I'll use Hiten Style before Bladesurge to ensure that I make the most of the true damage bonus.
Now onto my items.
Now, this is very much a play-style choice. Because I use Bladesurge as an early game harass tool, I need to be able to get out of range as quickly as possible, so boots are invaluable to me. Likewise, doing this can result in a slight issue with potentially dying, so health potions also prove invaluable.
Doran's Shield is another option, however I've always found that on melee champions, you can't be certain you'll be able to hit minions to make use of the lifesteal, particularly if you find yourself kept out by an aggressive champion. This leaves you highly vulnerable to being turret dived and ganked, so I personally don't like it.
Cloth Armor, 3x Health Potion and 2x Mana Potion (or some mixture of these and Sight Wards) is another option. This is fine in theory, but since I can't build Cloth Armor into anything particularly useful for my build, it feels like a waste of gold.
Sapphire Crystal is the option for anyone who feels they can lane on Irelia without any form of self-healing until level 3. I personally don't, because of the unpredictability of having a good laning phase, but it will give you an earlier Sheen.
Sheen is the one item that nobody can really argue about. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most important item in any Irelia build. Although Irelia no longer uses Ability Power, she makes extremely good use of Sheen's unique effect. Bladesurge applies on-hit effects, and with a cooldown on Sheen's effect of 3 seconds, you can burst down most champions below level 10 with this alone. It is extremely powerful and should be rushed as early as possible.
Cooldown Reduction. I've covered this a bit in runes, but Irelia's abilities become very spammable. There's nothing nicer than being able to hop into a lane mid-late game and sweep through a minion wave and being able to get back to safety just as quickly. If you manage to not last-hit one minion with Bladesurge, then waiting for the cooldown can make all the difference between falling prey to the gank squad that's heading for you or not.
Berserker's Greaves - A perfectly viable choice for extra attack speed, and a bit cheaper if you're having trouble with gold and feel the need to get to finishing Trinity Force that extra bit quicker.
Mercury's Treads - The tanky option. I'm not too keen on these because Irelia's passive, Ionian Fervor is, essentially, Tenacity. I don't really think tenacity on top of her passive is worth the extra 150 gold, or particularly effective.
I go for Giant's Belt next because I want to start building my Warmog's Armor eventually, but also want that extra bit of health before I spent a quite large amount of gold towards damage. I already have Sheen, so Irelia's damage is fine for the start of mid game. That extra health is enough to keep me alive if I catch the tail-end of most champions' ultimates, but definitely not enough to survive being focused if I can't Flash out.
Phage is the only other item I usually build for Trinity Force before completing it. It provides more health, some damage and a chance to slow targets, which works well for Irelia (and your team) when Equilibrium Strike is on cooldown.
You can build Zeal next, providing attack speed and movement speed. However, I don't really feel attack speed is a particularly strong stat on Irelia, and I favour damage and particularly the health on Phage.
Trinity Force is such an immensely powerful item on Irelia that you really can't justify not getting it. With seven stats, only one of which isn't great on Irelia (AP, of course), you can't really not enjoy the benefits it gives you. Plus, you get an improved version of Phage and Sheen.
As I mentioned in the Introduction, this is sort of a sticky subject. Warmog's Armor is a very, very high health item, but is also extremely expensive. If you're having a bad game, don't even try to get it. It's not worth the gold if you're struggling. Buy something cheaper, like Spirit Visage. It won't give you the health pool, but will give you more healing from Hiten Style and Transcendent Blades, as well as some magic resistance. Even if you're against a full AD team (in which case, your team shouldn't be having problems), it's worth it for the survivability it gives you. While you're nuking down one target, you'll be healing yourself ready to take on the next one. However, I still favour Warmog's Armor to any other tanky item. My aim with Irelia in this build isn't to turn her into a tank, but to make her harder to take down. I can't stress enough my beliefs in melee champions distracting from ranged champions, and needing the health pool to survive long enough to escape. Irelia is amazing at escaping because of the slow/stun mechanic of Equilibrium Strike, particularly when that's matched with Flash. However, getting away from 5 people hell-bent on killing you means you have to be able to take the damage. Even without any assists or kills, this item will give you enough health to do this. Furthermore, as an assassin, you will be in the fray, making sure that kills happen, so you should see the benefits of the passive fairly quickly.
Well, that isn't good enough reason for everyone, so I have already provided one alternative, Spirit Visage. However, that doesn't suit a lot of people, and they want the damage instead. My suggestion for a high health damage item is Frozen Mallet. However, keep in mind that this item is 250 gold more than Warmog's Armor for 220 less health. In exchange, you get 20 attack damage and another improved Phage. I don't personally like to spend gold on the same item twice, particularly when I can already feel the effects of it. Furthermore, if a champion is crowd controlled, any potential procs of all your slowing power will be wasted. Regardless, it makes a decent alternative if you feel you need a bit more damage.
It took me a long time to learn to love Infinity Edge. Not because of the damage it does, the damage is outstanding. However, it is a very expensive item, and takes a long time to build because the parts cost between 830 to 1650 gold, making it a long and tedious process to complete. However, it is well worth the gold with a massive amount of attack damage, a good amount of crit and a gigantic increase in damage from your crits. I would suggest building it from a B. F. Sword and a Pickaxe.
Youmuu's Ghostblade provides a good amount of attack, another 15% cooldown reduction, armour penetration and an active movement speed and attack speed boost. It's a strong item on any AD champion. There are plenty of alternatives, but I'm not going to cover them all here.
This item provides for your team, as well as you, and reduces the armour of nearby enemy champions. It isn't a vital item, but it is a very strong item for any team with more AD than AP, or against a particularly pesky tank that refuses to die. Like with Youmuu's Ghostblade, there are a great many alternatives to this item, and it would take me a long time to list them all.