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Not Updated For Current Season
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Okay first off this is just my build which I've written here for my own reference. Unlike other writers if you vote this down without saying why I could care less. I do not promise that this guide will teach you how to win 20 games in a row or even raise your ELO. In fact you should probably not even play this build and go find something with a higher a higher score and more votes written by some three time tourney winner with razor sponsorships.
However if you ARE going to play this build and you haven't stop reading yet I guess I should say something about why and how I play it so without further introduction here is the guide to my Irelia.
If you are looked at her stats above you might not this build has low HP and is built around the idea of her playing the role of an ganking assassin. The way I play I try use a hybrid approach of AP for magic damage and AD for physical damage combined with a high attack speed and solid mobility. This means you’ll be relying on your abilities, particularly your ultimate Transcendent Blades, to keep your health high at all times to avoid being easily killed as well as good map awareness. Don’t let your health sink to low or you’ll be killed before you know it. Remember you can attack monsters in the jungle to regain health with Hiten Style if you have high enough attack speed and that will get you buffs so you are ready when you encounter your opponents. Also your inherent power is worthless so don’t rely on it to save you from CC attacks.
Start off by getting yourself a dagger and a few potions and then go level, if you are worried by the enemy team’s roster get Dorian’s shield instead for the extra health and defense. By taking Hiten Style first you'll be able to heal which should keep your health high. If you run into trouble with someone like Ashe keeping you from attacking pick up Bladesurge next to allow you to leap forward to last hit, if not pick up Equilibrium Strike for the slow/stun it provides. Once you are at level 3 you have should be able to close, stun and hit for decent damage to make sure any careless squishies pay for harassing you but you should avoid anything more substantial for now. When you have to head back to buy pick up Mercury's Treads, Sheen and a ward as well if your team mates haven't start setting wards already. (It may be tempting to pick the Berserker’s Greaves instead but don't. Being slowed or held is death and you'll be getting attack speed from other items.)
Return to your lane and place the ward just beyond the brush so you can see if someone is headed your way or hiding to attack you. If no one else on your team is jungling you should consider doing so to allow your team to level faster but if you are new to the game this is probably left to more experienced members as you can easily fall behind if you don't know what paths to take and which monsters you can safely attack at which point. You may wish to get a Stinger instead of going right for the Trinity Force if you are jungling as the extra attack speed and mana regen will help you more in the jungle and when you start ganking and using your combo regularly. Additionally a nice survival options is Innervating Locket, but I would avoid it unless you start getting steered towards a more defensive build. If you need to move towards a more defensive build however the HP and Mana regen on the locket are perfect for that and will make you very difficult to kill provided you have a little armor and magic resistance but it doesn’t do as much in the glass cannon build that this guide favors.
You should have your ultimate by now which means you are more than ready to start killing enemy champs which is your primary purpose on most teams. You don’t have to wait for your ultimate as once you have the leap, stun, strike combo at level three you have the tool necessary to gank but it is much more difficult and I recommend not getting to aggressive until you have Transcendent Blades. Your ultimate recharges quickly so don't be afraid to use it often. It is a skill shot meaning you have to aim it and it will fire in the direction of your mouse pointer but you get 4 shots and they pass through enemies so it isn’t as difficult as other champion’s skill shots. You'll need to get a feel for the range of your ultimate and learn how to use it. Very importantly thing to note, this attack has a life drain effect which will be critical to keeping you alive. This build has little in the way of defense so it relies heavily on its ultimate to stay alive so practice with it. For example being able to flee and fire it backward as you run is a critical skill that will keep you alive when you need to run away.
At this point you should be able to leap out with Bladestrike closing in on a foe, stun or slow them and then chip away at your health. I suggest saving your ultimate for last to hit foes fleeing from you. Once you get some practice with the move you'll also be able to use it to kill enemies with low health hanging around by towers which many players do not expect from a melee based champion like Irelia. Also use Bladesurge to last hit creeps and get gold whenever possible as you will need items for the end game.
You'll want to have Phage at this point to slow opponent and be working toward completing the Trinity Force. If you are having trouble do not be afraid to buy Hexdrinker/Banshee's Veil (Hex is cheaper and still gives you some offense but Banshee is good too as it gives you extra health) to save you from characters with long range magic attacks or just pick up Guardian Angel early. However it is preferable to start focusing on your offense and working toward Malady and The Black Reaver which will help you cut through your foes defense late game and give you the stopping power you'll need to put them down. If you have Stinger you may wish to finish Nashor’s Tooth as well, however if you did not start it earlier then skip it until the end unless you are having mana problems. If you on the other hand you do build Nashor’s Tooth you may wish to switch out Malady for Madred’s Bloodrazor depending on who your enemies are or if you are facing Jax the Sword of the Divine, however since Irelia deal a mix of magic and physical damage I like to use the Black Reaver/Malady combo to bring down both defenses in most games. If your wards have run out renew them and hope your team mates are doing the same. It might not seem like it but it is a small price to pay but really if each ward you buy only helps to stay alive once or lets you get one ambush on an enemy than they have paid for themselves.
If you have to pick up defense early and find yourself lacking stopping power late game keep in mind a way to make yourself useful is to play defensively and help protect your base when enemies start pushing allowing other players to push the offense. Your Ultimate can deal a lot of damage to creeps and champion clustered close together around a tower and your leap/stun combo can help towers get extra hits in on attacking champs.
While Irelia can push down towers fairly effectively and I suggest you attack them if you are unopposed in a lane do not let yourself get hit by towers under any condition. Never tower dive to try and get a kill, always strike from safety with your ultimate. If they get away, they get away. Towers will kill you every time if you let them.
Irelia is very useful in team fights but you must understand she can't take a beating well. Let tanks do their job and initiate, your job is to kill off any squishies you can get your hands on, mages and support players are your primary prey. Use your best judgment on your ultimate. It can be useful for hitting multiple champs, but it is a major kill tool for you and the fastest way for you to regain lost life. The best use for it will be very situational. If you managed to build with both Malady and The Black Reaver your ability to lower both armor and magic resistance will help your team bring down targets faster so double teaming will help you kill enemies and turn the tide of battle very quickly. Lastly try and be attacking whenever possible to keep your life up. You can be easily killed if you stop to chase fleeing foes should they kite you so don't try and chase down foes unless they are slowed allowing you to reach them quickly and attack them. There will be times when you’ll have to run to avoid getting killed, if your tank dies you’ll probably want to err on the side of caution but if you do your job and eliminate enemies you Tank will be just fine.
If you are having trouble getting kills late game you might consider building a Hextech Gunblade instead of a Nashor’s Tooth at this point. The extra slow is helpful for hitting fleeing targets with your ultimate and the life gain/spell vamp can help you stay alive. If you are more advanced however and can make your skill shots then The Bloodthirster is a better option, particularly when combined with the Black Cleaver for massive AD damage. However if you are having more trouble just staying alive Randuin’s Omen is an excellent choice as it buffs health, health regen and armor as well as brings you up to the cooldown cap allowing you to use it much more frequently.
Items I leave out
Quicksilver Sash – CC and debuff can be a serious problem for Irelia and the Quicksliver Sash can shut those down hard for a fairly low price. I do not advise it however because it doesn’t build into anything or add to Irelia in anyway but to counter CC and debuff. As such I much prefer to go with other defensive items over Quicksilver Sash unless I’m dealing with a very CC heavy group. I wouldn’t say never use Quicksilver Sash but I consider it a last resort.
Stark’s Fervor – Stark’s Fervor is a perfectly fine item for Irelia but I think it is better to let another member of the team make it. As I’ve said throughout this guide I rely very heavily on Irelia’s ultimate and Stark’s Fervor doesn’t add much to it. As such let a Sivir or some other champion make this item and you’ll still get most of its benefits when the team fights happen which is when you’ll really need its extra attack speed, regen and armor debuff anyway.
Infinity Edge – Another solid item which goes well in many Irelia builds. This build however is already a little expensive and Infinity Edge is very expensive. If you have the money it is a fine item to work in after you have the Trinity Force to try and maximize your critical hits but I don’t like to rely on criticals since they don’t work on towers where as Attack Damage or Attack Speed does.
Phantom Dancer – A good item but I avoid it since it doesn’t improve the damage of my ultimate.
Wits End – Wits end is actually good and I’ve seen several builds that user it, but it fills a similar role to Hexdrinker in that it both builds physical offense while offering magic defense. I simply prefer the Hexdrinker due to its strong protection since typically I’m buying it to make sure I stay alive. If you feel that wits end would work better for you then by all means get it.
My choices are fairly standard here but I'll explain a bit. For master's I favor offense but Extra defense from runes is very useful for the early game. Nothing too special there but I admit it is a non-standard set up.
Ignite is a fairly standard spell choice for an assassin. One choice which might look odd to you is the choice of Ghost over Flash. Since Irelia's ultimate operates on a similar mechanic to flash and I feel I get more out of ghost. With flash I can't fire my ultimate backward without leaving flash in the wrong direction. As such I prefer to use ghost to flee away while trying to regain life and deter anyone chasing me with Transcendent Blades.
Techniques and Tips
Fire into Bushs – Your character can fire their ultimate at champions under cover unlike most attacks. With proper positioning you can fire into bushes and surprise any champion hiding there. I don’t do this often but it can be a life saver if you have strong reason to suspect a champion is hiding from you. More often though a champion will run through cover trying to shake you and tagging them with a well places shot can often make sure they don’t.
Fire on the move – This is tricky and requires some practice as mentioned earlier it is a critical skill. Learn to click toward a point far ahead on the map, fire off your ultimate while on the move then click again to adjust your movement. You have a few second to fire off your ultimate so don’t panic. This skill is both critical for staying alive when running as well as scoring kill.
Q chaining – This is important for preventing kiting and closing in on champions before they get away. Last hit a minion between you and your foe with Bladesurge, this will cause it to instantly recharge allowing you to make a second leap just as fast you can click allowing her to close very large distances very quickly. Following this up with her standard combo will allow you to kill enemies who would normally be untouchable due to kiting. I keep Bladesurge low level though only dealing 20 damage so you’ll need to either get very good at this or pick up Attack Damage items early in order to make this work. Practice makes perfect. If you have trouble try going more damage heavy on your runes to make this easier in the early game.
Hurt, stun, heal – Another trick is to let yourself take just a little bit of damage before you use Equilibrium Strike. If you have lower life by % then your target this will stun rather than slow. Since this build is low health it is easy to drop down to just 90 or 95% of your total health and stun a champion at full health. Your attacks while the enemy is stunned with easily regain you this life and with high attack speed and Hiten Style you can do a lot of damage in 2 seconds and with Malady/The Black Cleaver you’ll be able to stack on debuff so when you use your ultimate you’ll gain a lot more life allowing you to keep the advantage. You won’t be able to use this against most ranged champions since you’ll need Bladesurge to close in on them which will do damage but it is a great way to get the edge on another melee champion with a more tanky build. You can sometimes get this to work on Mord but ONLY if you can catch him with his shield down, which is to say never.
Know who you can take – Being a glass cannon you often need to kill your foes quickly to avoid getting killed yourself and some foes won’t be easy to take down. For example this Irelia isn’t the best build to put down a true tank on her own in the laneing phase (but can of course harass them). When you’ve got a problem champ in your area keeping Bladesurge open to help with a quick getaway, stunning and liberal use of your ultimate can keep enemies you are not ready to kill huddled by the tower allowing you to farm and denying them. Before long you’ll have the equipment you need to kill them and they won’t provided you play it smart. If you feed them however it will only make the situation worse for you.
Heal off of towers – Although Irelia’s powers don’t work against towers her passive life gain does. If you chase off or kill an enemy champion and you’ve got plenty of creep cover take a few swings at the tower before the next creep wave so you regain life and move your team that much close to victory in the process. This lets Irelia be very aggressive in lanes since she can attack tower and recover life unlike most champions who will have to back off after a close battle. Just make sure you back off before either your creeps all die or an enemy returns. If you don’t have good map awareness you are better off playing it safe and staying out of the tower’s range. Again let me stress never let yourself get hit by a tower as this build cannot take that kind of abuse.
Watch out of the Gank – You are very gankable with this build so keep your eyes open and use your abilities wisely. You have enough health that you should survive a stunning attack but not by much and without flash running is a lot harder. If you are not that good at her skill shot I recommend dumping ghost in favor of flash until you are. Exhaust and Ignite two common summoner spells both can ravage you so don’t mess around. Ward if you are in a lane, and if you are jumped in the jungle don’t hesitate to run away with all speed. You are not doing your team any favors by sticking around and dying.
Adapt – You’ll not I point out many items you can mix and match rather than just explaining one build. This is because things rarely go to plan. You’ll often need to adapt your game play with Irelia a little bit more than most due to how fragile she is. Certain opponents like Jax can and will destroy you unless you have the right tools for the job. Consider what issues you are running into when making your purchases rather than just buying the same items every single game. This guide points you toward an aggressive build but there will be time you’ll need to pick up Innervating Locket, Quicksilver Sash, Hexdrinker and Randuin’s Omen. While kills are great taking the nexus in the way to win. If you can’t get kills but can still harass enemies enough to keep them from farming and push on a few towers when the chance comes without getting killed you’ll still be helping your team out. You will not be helping you team out by allowing yourself to killed repeatedly. If someone has your number change your plans to make sure they don’t gank you again.
In closing Irelia is a fun, viable champ but one that requires both a bit of skill and good judgment to use effectively. If you enjoy a melee champ who can get kills but requires skills then Irelia and this build might be for you. On the other hand if you are someone who loses their cool when they get killed or hasn't mastered some of the core game skills yet then my Irelia play style might not be for you as she can be rather unforgiving.