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Illaoi Build Guide by DirtyMobs

Top S9 Challenger Guide to Illaoi by DirtyMobs

Top S9 Challenger Guide to Illaoi by DirtyMobs

Updated on January 5, 2019
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League of Legends Build Guide Author DirtyMobs Build Guide By DirtyMobs 126 2 75,035 Views 2 Comments
126 2 75,035 Views 2 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author DirtyMobs Illaoi Build Guide By DirtyMobs Updated on January 5, 2019
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Runes: Conqueror

1 2 3 4
Legend: Tenacity
Last Stand

Taste of Blood
Ravenous Hunter

+9 Adaptive (5.4 AD or 9 AP)
+9 Adaptive (5.4 AD or 9 AP)
+6 Armor

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Top Lane
Ranked #24 in
Top Lane
Win 50%
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Top Lane Ranked #24 in
Top Lane
Win 50%
More Illaoi Runes

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Champion Build Guide

S9 Challenger Guide to Illaoi by DirtyMobs

By DirtyMobs

Welcome to the Season 9 Guide to Illaoi. In this guide, I will teach you the build and playstyle I used to climb to Challenger in North America in Season 8 and preseason for Season 9. First I want to build some credibility, here is a list of what I am offering you as your tour guide:
  • ~8 Years of MOBA experience
  • Over 2400 ranked games on Illaoi since Season 6
  • 1.8 Million mastery points on Illaoi
  • Reached ~450lp Challenger in North America in Season 8

My reason for becoming an Illaoi OTP was to showcase the potential this underrated champion can bring to Summoners Rift. By learning Illaoi you'll learn multiple playstyles, the importance of wave management, and mental discipline that will develop you as a player in ways that other champions will not.

Future Updates

I want you all to know that I plan on updated the guide with more matchup specific notes in the future. As well as updates when key patch changes happen.


Champion Background

+ Thrives on tanks and bruisers
+ Strong split pushing and team fighting
+ Can dominate melee top and junglers in 1v2s
+ Tentacles and Spirit create a unique kit
+ Great mechanical depth
+ Variety of good keystone choices

- Certain laners make her life hell
- Countered by heavily ranged team compositions
- Little/no utility if you get behind
- All-in style means you'll likely die if your team is behind
- Reliant on Flash to position in fights
- Your jungler may throw your lane if they fight topside early

Illaoi is a high damage bruiser that becomes a raid boss in her personal space. She thrives on melee champions and initiators who will group on her, spawning tentacles through her ultimate and unleashing punishing discipline onto her enemies. At first glance, she may seem to be a simple champion, but the deeper you go the more min-max capabilities you find. Her Ultimate Leap of Faith + Flash combination mimics Annie's team fight capabilities while auto animation cancels and cast-time buffering showcase the depth of Illaoi's capabilities.

Be careful, with great power comes great responsibility. Her weakness is exploited by filthy ranged champions, constantly splitting up and kiting which showcase Illaoi's low mobility and reliance on clumped team fights.

Illaoi's strength also becomes her weakness early. Many players view Illaoi as a lane bully and try to bully the enemy at level 1. This lack of discipline leads to certain death as junglers know to gank Illaoi early, where low mobility makes her an easy target. Experienced Illaoi players know to practice the less flashy, high discipline approach to wave management early in the game. Stalling their great power until level 6, when Illaoi becomes a 1v2 powerhouse, dreaming of being ganked by the enemy jungler.

Here is an example of what strong Illaoi can be:
Challenger Tips & Advice


I added this section because they are topics most people do not talk about but I find to be extremely important if you plan on elevating your game to a higher level.

Think Ahead

Illaoi is a champion that loves 1v2 situations, however, to execute these flawlessly you have to be thinking ahead. This is a skill that can be used on any champion in any role. Most people view Faker's 1v1 Zed performance verse Ryu as reaction time brilliance. While I guarantee that there is some truth to his quick reactions, this play is more a testament to his ability to plan ahead of his opponent.

When I am looking for a 1v2 situation, I have a checklist I go through BEFORE the fight is even close to happening.
  1. What key abilities do I need to Flash?
  2. Are there CC's I can cast abilities during? Q ,E ,R have cast times, use them before a CC, I go further in-depth in the advanced ability section below.
  3. Who is the more likely target to land E on?
  4. Can I use the brush to my advantage?
It is this form of proactive thought that makes pulling off incredible plays possible because I'm not being reactive, I'm being proactive.

Assess Weakness in Lane

Here I'm more speaking to weaknesses to jungle ganks. My process is every time the lane crashes at a certain point, I take a split second to assess where I am weakest and how I will escape/fight a jungle gank. Doing this provides a consistent reminder to play around the enemy jungler.

Don't Blame Jungle

This is especially important in top lane where it can be easy to become an ignored island. I believe you should think about top lane as a 1v2 lane and you should expect no help from your own jungler. You will play smarter and blame your team less following this technique. It will also force you to understand how important wave management is in top lane, where having the tower frozen under the enemy turret can lead to disastrous consequences for yourself.

Focus on YOU

The worst thing you can do when trying to climb the ladder is... well focus on climbing the ladder. The best way to climb is to improve as a player and to do that you need to only focus on variables YOU can control. If you find yourself constantly tilting off of teammate mistakes, putting the blame on others, or saying "there's nothing I could do!" then you're going to have a bad time. Yes, some games will not be winnable no matter what you do, but that is probably only 5% of your games. The majority of games you can have a considerable impact on if you play perfectly, and I guarantee you are not playing perfectly.
Basic Information


Cast times and CC's (Cast Time Buffering)

I'm putting this topic first because I find it to be an extremely important min-maxing tool and the only positive benefit of having 3 casted abilities (Q , E , R ). The idea is to use casted abilities immediately before being CC'd, your ability will continue being cast during the CC, effectively reducing the CC duration. Taking advantage of this mechanic generates advantages that can win or lose the fight.

"The Dive"

Here is a technique I use to bait enemies to all-in me under their turret. The main tip is to use your passive on the turret, throw your E . Now if they decide to all-in you, they have chosen incorrectly as you will proceed to ult and kill them. If they run away or dance at the edge of the spirit range, just back out and reset as they understand how to play around this tricky bait.
The Dive

W Tricks

  1. can be used to jump over small walls.
  2. When used as a leap attack, W is not blindable (great when versing Teemo's Blinding Dart!!)
  3. If you begin leap attack on a target, the target cannot dodge with a blink or dash ability. ( Flash, Ezreal , LeBlanc , Lee-Sin , etc.)

E Tricks

  1. Throw at enemies attempting to grab CS, they will either take the E or give up the CS.
  2. Always try to pull the spirit near at least one tentacle, not having a tentacle near the spirit greatly reduces damage output.
  3. Learn how to throw your E at dashing targets, it turns a difficult target into an easy target to land E on. This is mainly pertinent to Irelia, Yasuo, and Fiora.

R Tricks

  1. Cast Leap of Faith + Flash - The bread and butter of Illaoi's team fighting, try to use your flashes in combination with your ultimate in team fights. Check out the Summoner Spells section for more detail.
  2. You cannot be knocked up during your ultimate, a great counter to key ultimates like Gnar , Gragas or , Vi , Yasuo .
  3. Use your ultimate on Poppy's ultimate Keeper's Verdict to block for your team or avoid being knocked away.
  4. If used as Bard ult is about to hit you, you can dodge the stasis effect. I'm not really sure when this is useful, but a fun little mechanic.

Rune Strategy

My favorite part about the new rune system and Illaoi is that I can argue for 4 different keystones. What other champion has such versatility? On the right you will see a recommended item build for each rune page, and be sure to check out my recommended secondary pages in the spoilers.

IMPORTANT - If you are using Kleptomancy or Grasp of the Undying, do not fall for the trap that you should W -spam the enemy to maximize your keystone procs in lane. This is a fools game, as W -spamming the enemy will shove your lane, putting you in position to die to jungle ganks during laning phase. Your keystone should compliment your strategy, not dictate it. Instead, you should focus on WAVE MANAGEMENT, and focus on procing your keystone on the E spirits.

Conqueror (Team fighting)

space Conqueror is the best team fighting rune page offered to Illaoi, followed by the glacial augment build. The reason for this is the bonus AD and true damage conversion benefits all of Illaoi's abilities, which is most of her damage. I currently main Conqueror. After giving Kleptomancy several months of testing, I switched back to Conqueror and gained 300lp in a week... whatever that means.

It is important to note the adverse synergy between Black Cleaver and Conqueror, making Trinity Force a better buy if you run this keystone. This is because Conqueror turns 20% of your damage from physical to true damage, making the armor shred not as good for you. My philosophy, however, is to follow my decision-making process about when to run Trinity Force or Black Cleaver. This can be found in the Item Build section of this guide, even if you are running Conqueror.

Secondary Rune Page for Conqueror

Kleptomancy (Lane)

space Kleptomancy's synergy with Illaoi's W and E make it very appealing to Illaoi. A keystone I recommend for newcomers to the champion as it provides earlier power spikes and smoother laning phases. Changes to Kleptomancy in patch 8.23 also made it much smoother for Illaoi to consistently proc the keystone.

The reason I prefer Conqueror to Kleptomancy is that Kleptomancy plays to the weaker part of Illaoi's game. Illaoi's first 5 levels are weak, you shouldn't be spamming W on the enemy, and if you do not land your E's then you don't gain much off of Kleptomancy. Once the laning phase is over, Kleptomancy becomes mostly useless as you won't be poking as much mid to late game.

Secondary Rune Page for Kleptomancy

Grasp of the Undying (Lane)

space Grasp of the Undying's beauty is access to the defensive runes in the Resolve tree. The ability to trade with W or proc the keystone on E makes it a decent sustain rune. I usually only run Grasp when I am in a hard, poke heavy lane and my team lacks a beefy front-liner... or when I verse Rumble.
Secondary Rune Page for Grasp of the Undying


Glacial Augment (Well-rounded, Utility)

space Glacial Augment is a very fun, versatile, utility keystone build that works well into any matchup. This is the rune page I run into the rougher ranged matchups instead of Grasp of the Undying. If I am running Glacial Augment, it means I'm versing a ranged champion that is mobile. Our build here will look very different than other, but it's a ton of fun.

Secondary Rune Page for Grasp of the Undying

Stat Trees

With the Preseason update in Season 9, we have stat trees to consider as well.

  • Top Row: I always do Adaptive Force as we do not need the attack speed or CDR.
  • Middle Row: Flex this one depending on the matchup. Adaptive Force if versus low damage opponent. Armor if versus a AD threat. Magic Resist if versus a AP Threat.
  • Bottom Row: Follow the same critique of the second row. Health is for scaling when versing weak laners. Armor if versus a heavy AD threat. Magic Resist if versus a heavy AP threat.
Summoner Spells


FLASH: Flash is a core component to making Illaoi work in team fights through her Leap of Faith + Flash mechanic. Make sure to cast your Ult then cast Flash. Here is an example:
Flash+Ult example

A more advanced use of flash to begin thinking of flash as a combat summoner used to dodge key skill shots in team fights. Instead of trying to react to spells, think before a fight about what key skill you want to use flash to dodge. I do this a lot top lane as I will commonly bait 1v2s versus their top and jungler. A J4 jungle is a good example of when to use flash to dodge an ability, as dodging his Q knockup will greatly reduce his damage output, leading to an easy double kill for the tentacle priestess.
TELEPORT: This is the summoner that many will quickly replace, which I do not suggest. Even with the 8.23 changes that you cannot cancel teleport anymore, the macro game necessity demands you keep the summoner spell. Many will make the case that you should take a more laning centric summoner to win the lane, but teleport does provide value in lane. If you are versing an ignite champion, your goal is to simply not die before ~600-750g, recall to buy and refill your bottle, then teleport to the lane. The enemy with ,will now be greatly disadvantaged as they will not have had a chance to back and be behind on resources and stats.
Trinity Force vs The Black Cleaver


  • Good into ranged team compositions
  • Superior split push item
  • Synergizes better with Conqueror
  • Provides focused damage
  • Higher AD and health stats
  • Easily stacks armor shred w/ Test of Spirit and tentacles
  • Greater teamfight damage

TL/DR Recommendation

If you do not know which to build or are new, build Black Cleaver with Kleptomancy or Grasp of the Undying as it provides better team fighting, health, and AD. Build Trinity Force with Conqueror and Glacial Augment as it works better with the true damage and speedy rune pages.

This topic is perhaps the thing I get asked about most on my stream which is why I will discuss when to build each. My philosophy on the subject based on one question, "how focused do I want my damage?" Black Cleaver does a great job of providing damage spread out amongst all Illaoi's abilities, while Trinity Force focuses your damage potential into your W's .

Detailed Explination

Melee Champs


Build Black Cleaver versus team compositions with many melee champions and tanks.

Black Cleaver is a great item for Illaoi, providing sufficient AD, health, CDR, movement speed, and armor shred. Black Cleaver stacks can be applied to a target by damaging the spirit , a great tool to harass in lane once you have finished the item. Black Cleaver is also significantly cheaper than Trinity Force and has easy gold checkpoints to build into.

For these reasons, I view Black Cleaver as a better team fighting item, so build it into compositions that will commonly group together. It is extremely convenient that tankier team compositions provide melee champions that will group up, increasing the value of Black Cleaver and Illaoi in general.

Ranged Champs


Build Trinity Force when you are versus heavy ranged compositions or want to split push and force 1v1s. However, do not build Trinity Force if you fall behind in the lane as it is too expensive of an item.

Preferred Runes:

Conqueror Glacial Augment

As opposed to The Black Clever, Trinity Force is a more focused damage item, front-loading your damage output into your W through the Sheen proc effect. Trinity Force is an item you want to build when you want to focus on split-pushing or the enemy has mostly ranged champions. Ranged champions typically don't build armor nor do they clump up in team fights, reducing Black Cleaver's value. The movement speed on Trinity Force also helps run down ranged champions who are kiting you.
Laning Strategy


Laning strategy will encompass the game up until turrets begin falling, typically around 15 minutes or level 11 after the preseason changes.

Game Start: Place Tentacles

Blue Side Start

Blue Side Start

Red Side Start w/ Leashing Jungler

Place this tentacle first, if the enemy top laner kills it you know they are in the bush and you need to go the long way to lane. Will save you from losing 50% of your health before lane starts.

Red Side Start w/ Leash

Red Side Start In Lane

Red Side Start In Lane

Level 1: 1st Wave

Use Q on the 3 melee minions if the enemy does not touch them as they will approach low health at the same time. If the enemy is attacking them this is GREAT, just Q what minions you can but do not create too much collateral damage. Our goal is to bring the lane back, give up a minion if you have to. Taking bad trades right now is NOT worth 20g, most of your CS will come after you hit level 3 which is only 2 waves away.

Level 1 Video

Level 2: 2nd Wave

Your wave should be positioned something like the image below. After the first melee minion dies you will hit level 2, level up your W and use the tentacles you have set up to secure minions if the wave is under your turret, or to thin out the wave if it is getting too large.

Level 2 Video

Level 3: 3rd Wave

You'll hit level 3 after the 3 melee minions die on this wave (assuming all previous wave minions are dead). This is where you can finally lane against your opponent. I want to emphasize that the hesitation to trade/lane at this point is not because you cannot beat the laner, but because your fighting pushes the lane with AoE abilities, making you susceptible to the jungler. At this point, you want to continue to do more your poking with E harass and focus on wave management. If you lose control of the lane and it starts to push (you have more minions than your opponent), wait for the jungler to show on the map before you overextend, when you see the enemy jungler, push the minions using Q and your W+tentacles to reset the wave. Once the wave crashes under turret it will then bounce back towards your turret.

Level 3 Video

Levels 4-5

These levels are just continuing your defensive strategy. Remember to assess your weaknesses every time the waves crash into each other and account for how you will get out of jungle ganks accordingly. Note this is exactly where you want the lane to be until you are level 6 (about 6 minutes into the game). If you lose control of the lane, wait for the enemy jungler to show on the map before passing the mid-way point. You cannot 1v2 yet and will have to use flash to escape or you will die to a gank.

- Level 4 -

Here I show you how to reliably land your E even on a hard target like Yasuo. The main take away is to try to be predictive of your opponent's actions and to throw your E when they get distracted.

Level 4 Video

- Level 5 -

Below is a video where I try to reset the wave and take a bad trade. However, this was a good time to back and spend the gold even though I was short of the 1250 mark.

Level 5 Video

Level 6

Make sure to spend your gold by this point if you have not already. Now it is time to switch from defensive stance to aggressive stance. Play around your tentacles and use them to push the wave or output damage on your E spirits. Below is a video where I use some of the techniques we have learned to disengage a bad fight versus Yasuo.

Level 6 Video

Levels 7-11

The rest of the lane is playing around your tentacles, pushing the wave, and landing E's. Try to not put yourself in a position where if you miss E you are heavily punished or can die. Use my tips in the Challenger Advice section to set up 1v2's versus their top laner and jungler. In the video below, you can see how I play out the 1v1 versus Yasuo.

1v1 Example Video


The part of the game is more about understanding the macro game. I'll touch on it some, but this is not a macro game guide, so please seek out videos that go into deeper detail on how to play the macro game.

When Do I Swap with Bot Lane?

The macro game strategy is for you to be in the lane opposite the most critical objective, leaving your bot lane, jungle, and the mid lane to act as a 4 man unit working on objectives while you have teleport to join in on the fray. So, swap with your bot lane when dragon is off the table and bottom tier 1 is taken.

Should I Split Push or Group?

An easy rule of thumb is to avoid grouping too much before you get your Sterak's Gage second item. I do not like to group before this because it takes a lot of time to set up your e-ult combination, which Sterak's Gage's health and shield provide you time to pop off without dying mid ultimate.

Where Should I Be on the Map?

As the top laner, your goal is to push out the long lane to the enemy turret while your teammates play to objectives. This is why we take Teleport as it provides us the ability to join the fight when needed. Pushing the waves to the enemy turret ensures you keep your CS up and prevent enemy creeps from dying to your creeps, losing you on considerable gold.

How does Team Fighting Work?

Illaoi's team fighting based on her ability to fish for E as poke or before she begins a fight. Follow this with Flash + Leap of Faith combinations if Flash is up. Use Qs and Ws after ulting to keep healing and E when its off cooldown for more tentacle slams and damage output. Here is an example of this in action:
Team fighting on Illaoi

League of Legends Champions:

Teamfight Tactics Guide