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GUIDE: Irelia, Soul of the Blades

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!!WARNING: LONG READ!! This is meant to be a comprehensive guide to Irelia in general, as well as the best way to play her. Since this IS long, I have included a table of contents so you can ctrl f your way to the parts you really want to read and skip the commentary. But I do invite you to read the commentary and reply. If rating down, tell me why, don't just downvote and disappear into the night. That doesn't help anyone. Also, don't post TL;DRs here. I warned you in advance it's a long read.

Irelia is, without a doubt, a challenging champion to master because she can fit so many roles, and it can be difficult to strike a proper balance with her. I personally have found that HYBRID dps burst works best with her. This guide has tips for both LANING as well as JUNGLING. The two will noted as to which I'm talking about in the guide proper.

Table of Contents:
Section 1. Common Mistakes and Pros and Cons
Section 2. Runes
Section 3. Masteries and Summoner Spells
Section 4. Skill Build
Section 5. Item Build
Section 6. Early Game
Section 7. Mid Game
Section 8. Late Game
Section 9. Misc

Section 1. Common Mistakes and Pros and Cons
This is where I go over the many, many mistakes Irelia players will do and have done and attempt to head them off at the pass.

Attack Speed Irelia: Looking at Hiten Style and it's true damage, the tastiest and most delicious of all damage types. Building her straight attack speed, with a couple of Phantom Dancers, maybe a Stark's and a Black Cleaver, anything to max out that attack speed to get the most benefit from Hiten is good right? Wrong. The second you get blinded or Exhausted, you're toast. You are are squishy, overly-buttered, delicious, non-life-regaining-on-hit-because-you-can't-hit-jack toast. Also, this build requires you to stay in combat situations for longer than the 6 seconds your Hiten lasts, which is longer than you want to stay in that combat situation.

Attack Damage Irelia: Ok, so attack speed wasn't too hot, but what about attack damage? Grab anything that needs a BF Sword and go to town, hitting like the Mack Truck you are. Again, this is a bit of a problem. You're neglecting the amazing 1:1 AP scaling of your Equilibrium Strike, and again this build suffers from the problem of you have no balance in your burst. Yes Bladesurge also gives 1:1 AD ratio, but the cooldown is longer at lower levels and it lacks the stunning/slowing power that makes Equilibrium Strike strike fear into the hearts of champions with higher HP than you. Also, the lack of burst means you have to stay in the thick of combat for longer than you like to be, and outside of stunning someone with Equilibrium Strike and running out.

Pure Lifesteal Irelia: This is, without a doubt, one of the most common and stupidest builds I've seen. If you want to solo Baron and do absolutely nothing else, go right on ahead with this. Building pure lifesteal usually means a Stark's and then stacking Bloodthirsters. You are not Sivir. If you want to do this, save yourself about 6000 IP and buy Sivir. This type of build is very expensive, since the 3 or 4 Bloodthirsters you buy cost 3200 a pop, and if your game is lasting long enough for you to even complete most of it, you and your team are doing it wrong.

Ability Power Irelia: Not one that I've seen often, but still seen often enough to warrant being included here. It's a little bit closer to what we want in burst, but still not quite there. All you really have to defend yourself in this type of situation is your Equilibrium Strike and Transcendent Blades, without the attack speed necessary to keep Hiten's life regen up to par or enough attack power to make Bladesurge scary.

So what do all of these builds have in common? They all ignore at least one part of her skillset. Irelia is a champion of balance, and bringing this balance to fruition.

Hiten's passive procs off turrets
Her ulti makes clearing (and thus farming) waves of creep a breeze
Fairly strong jungle presence once she hits level 3
Her passive is built-in Merc Treads

Fairly squishy
Her ulti is fairly unwieldy and takes practice to work with
Extremely reliant on her team
Few escape mechanisms available, the ones she does have are conditional

Section 2. Runes
As Irelia, I find that red flat attack speed, yellow flat attack speed, blue cooldown reduction per level and health quints (primarily because I can't afford other types of quints) work fairly well, especially if jungling, where the health quints are a godsend. This should give about 22% attack speed to start out with and a good amount of cooldown reduction for later in the game, when you want to use e as often as possible.

Other viable runes/quints are armor/magic pen, but I find the attack speed and health to be of more value to me, but then again I play suicidally, your mileage may vary.

Section 3. Masteries and Summoner Spells
Masteries are 9/0/21, picking up the crit and improved exhaust in the first tier if laning, substitution improved smite if jungling. The cooldown reduction talent and 15% magic pen in the attack tree must be picked up, since the core item build includes no magic pen items, and neither do the runes. For utility, Improved Ghost and Regen for tier one, max the Exp gain and base mana talent for tier 2, 2 in the mana regen talent for tier 3, max movement speed for tier 4, the cooldown reduction talent in tier 5, and then the only talent in tier 6.
Why Utility over Offense? While you will hit harder with Offense tree talents, I've found Utility to just be a better overall survivability tree for her. She moves as fast as greasy lightning to begin with, and the improved movespeed in Utility adds to her ability to get in and get out, and the 6% cooldown reduction may as well be picked up as well if we are that deep in the tree, and there aren't really any other talents worth taking at that point besides the final one in Utility. Again, personal preference, but this is what works for me.

Summoner Spells

Exhaust/Ghost: If I'm laning, I'll run this combo simply because it's easier to score kills with and exhaust can be used both offensively and defensively, just like Ghost can. I use Ghost over Flash because I personally like Ghost better, but if you have a hard-on for Flash, feel free to substitute it.

Smite/Ghost: The obvious jungling choice, this really shouldn't need any explanation. Again, sub out Ghost for Flash if you want, or even sub it out for Exhaust if you want to be very aggressive, but I always like to leave myself with a means to run away, fast.

Other options: Ignite is perfectly viable and an alternative to Exhaust if no one else on your team has it, but I prefer Exhaust to Ignite because again, I can use Exhaust to slow someone down so I can get away, whereas with Ignite, I can get kills posthumously. Pick your poison carefully.

Do Not Take Summoner Spells: Heal/Clarity are always awkward. Yes Irelia is a mana hog during early game laning if you abuse Bladesurge to kill minions, but I feel it just doesn't justify taking clarity when the problem can be solved by playing smart and last hitting with your melee attack. Heal you shouldn't really have a need for, if again, you play smart and value your life. Clairvoyance is best left to your team's support champion, and Rally/Revive/Fortify should not need explanation on why they should be left alone/removed from game files.

Section 4. Skill Build
One of the things you'll notice about this, I don't have a skill maxxed out at 9. I have this weird condition where I like to level my nukes about equally. I'll start out with a brief description of her abilities before we get into the meat of the skill build.

[Q] Bladesurge: Irelia dashes forward to strike her target, dealing 20/55/90/125/160 (1:1 Attack Power Ratio) physical damage. If it kills the target, Bladesurge's cooldown refreshes and refunds 35 Mana.
(Cost: 70 Mana) Cooldown: 14/12/10/8/6 seconds

Here we have a nice physical psuedo-nuke that can double as a means to chase someone, IF they have left a trail of nearly dead minions behind them. The main nice thing about this ability is it applies on-hit effects, like Lizard buff. Yum. And just as it can be used to chase, if you are running away, you can use mostly-dead minions to jump away from pursuers, but bear in mind you can't jump through walls with it. Pity.

[W] Hiten Style: (Passive): Physical attacks restore 10/14/18/22/26 health per hit.
(Active): Irelia's physical attacks deal 15/30/45/60/75 true damage for 6 seconds.
(Cost: 40 Mana) Cooldown: 15 sec

This is a pretty nice, cut and dry ability that gives Irelia staying power in a lane and allows her to jungle without much problem at level 3. One thing to notice though, it's ON HIT damage, not lifesteal. This means it will ALWAYS give you back that much health, no matter how hard you hit, and it will give it back when you hit turrets or inhibitors, and it does stack with lifesteal. However, the true damage portion does NOT affect structures.

[E] Equilibrium Strike: (Active): Irelia pierces her target, dealing 80/135/190/245/300 (1:1 Ability Power Ratio) magic damage and slowing the target by 60% for 1/1.25/1.5/1.75/2 seconds. If the target has the same/higher health % than Irelia, she stuns the target for the duration instead.
Cooldown: 9 sec Cost: 50/55/60/65/70 Mana

This, paired with Bladesurge, are your main lane-harassing abilities, but more on that later. Equilibrium Strike is your main nuke, and the first skill to reach level 5 first. This, like Bladestrike, can be used offensively and defensively to either slow/stun and open up a barrage of strikes, or slow/stun and run away.

[R] Transcendent Blades: (Active): Irelia summons 4 spirit blades which she can fling to deal 90/140/190 (+0.4 per Ability Power OR +0.6 per bonus Attack Damage) magic damage to enemies they pass through, and she heals for 20% of that damage.
(Cost: 100 Mana) Cooldown: 60 / 50 / 40 seconds

This...this ulti has its ups and downs, mostly downs. About the only good things of note I've done with it is heal gobs off of creep waves and use it to snipe runners in teamfights. When you activate it, 4 little knives appear around Irelia, and then when you push R again, they fly off in the direction of your cursor, passing through all enemies on the way. While this is great for clearing and farming creep waves and keeping hp up in jungle, it's not as great as it could be.

Ok, onto the Skill Build itself. If the Jungling part is missing a letter, that means build it the laning way.
If Laning /If Jungling
1. Q W
2. W E
3. E W
4. E Q
5. W E
6. R
7. Q
8. E
9. E
10. Q
11. R
12. E (maxxed)
13. W
14. Q
15. W
16. R (maxxed)
17. Q (maxxed)
18. W (maxxed)

Now, why did I max Hiten last? Because this is a burst build, you pop Hiten as you go in, Bladesurge to close the gap, Equilibrium Strike if they try to run, then back off if they aren't in a killable range after Hiten's active wears off, shooting your Transcendent Blades after them as they run. Again, MAP AWARENESS, if you do not see the other enemy team members, do not chase very far. Better to let the prey get away and get killed later than feed the enemy team a kill because you got caught up in a trap. Also, you only really need two or three ranks of Hiten early game to keep yourself up.

Section 5. Item Build
Yeah yeah, how many of you just ctrl f'd your way here and skipped over everything else? Ok, well in keeping with the rest of the little theme we have going here, I've got my items divided into two sections, Core Items and Filler Items. Core Items are the items you WILL be building every game, bar none. These items are the backbone of this build, you will get them, and you will like it. Filler Items are gotten after the Core Items are completed, and as the name suggests, they fill in any gaps in your build, based both around the team you are fighting and the team you are fighting with. I'll go into the Core Items first.

Core Items: Trinity Force, Hextech Gunblade, Black Cleaver
Ok, first off, yes boots are important, but boots are also primarily determined by the team you're fighting against, so they go in Filler. Just grab boots 1 before or after you build Sheen and finish them after you finish Trinity Force and you'll be golden. ANYWAY, get Trinity Force first, starting out with Sheen. Whether you get Phage or Zeal next is completely up to you, I prefer Phage for the chance to slow when I Bladesurge in, remembering Bladesurge applies on hit effects. Once you finish Trinity Force, get a Vamp Scepter, after the Vamp Scepter get Hextech Revolver. You now have both lifesteal and spell vamp, which is considerably more beneficial than making the Bilgewater Cutlass first. Finish the Gunblade as soon as you can, then look at your kill/death count. If you find yourself getting focused into the dirt, consider building one of the defensive items from the Filler Item category before starting Black Cleaver. If you aren't getting focused into the dirt, build Black Cleaver, the armor pen will make the other team suck at life.

Filler Items: Boots 2, Banshee's Veil, Randuin's Omen, Phantom Dancer, Stark's Fervor, Bloodthirster, Nashtor's Tooth, Hextech Gunblade, Madred's Bloodrazor, Frozen Mallet
Gonna start off with boots first here. Do they have a lot, and I mean a LOT, as in are they a Pantheon/Annie/Fiddlesticks/Ashe/Shen type team that rains down crowd control thicker than an asphalt milkshake? Get Merc Treads. Are they a team of average CC abilities? Get Berserker's Greaves if you want attack speed, or Ionian Boots if you want cooldown reduction. Remember to finish upgrading your boots 1 to boots 2 after finishing Trinity Force.
Now, depending on how hard you were getting focused before, you are going to be building a survivability item either before or after your Black Cleaver. If they are either a CC-laden team or even a team of moderate CC abilities, get the Banshee's Veil, the extra health and mana and the ability to give any attempts to CC you the bird is always nice. However, if they are mainly a physical carry team, get the Randuin's Omen for its armor and its slow.
Ok, so you've got your core items built and your survivability item too. That means you have room for one more item! But what to pick? Well, look at the other team and size up your options. Does your team have a lot of physical dps that could benefit from lifesteal? Get Stark's. Do you want more movespeed and the ability to hit faster, crit more, and overall be a total ****** with it? Get Phantom Dancer. Big, beefy tanks getting you down? Tear them down with Madred's Bloodrazor. The other items I threw up there are all viable choices, including a SECOND Hextech Gunblade, depending on how you are playing. At this point, you should be nicely balanced out with a healthy enough kill count to afford just about any item you want. Nashtor's Tooth is good for it's attack speed, ability power, and all-mighty cooldown reduction, Bloodthirster because meh, you can, if you really want to, Frozen Mallet if your team doesn't have a reliable slow/you want to be more beefy or another Gunblade because the amount of damage and life recovery from the first wasn't good enough, and you want MORE!

Section 6. Early Game
By this point you should know if you are jungling or not. Since this build does not build Madred's Razor off the bat, Irelia is a little slower than most junglers, so if a better jungler than you wants to take the spot, let him have it. A good point to start with here is PICKING A LANE MATE.

A good lane mate for Irelia falls into two categories. The first is they do not require a lot of minion kills to be good at what they do, such as a support or a tank. The second may require a lot of minion kills to be good at what they do, but they are also good at killing enemy champions early game, so you can get fed from champion kills/assists instead of minions. These champs either have extremely high burst from the git-go like Akali, or a long stun-combo, like Pantheon or Sion. Also, your Equilibrium Strike synergizes well here, since you can use it to stun or slow them enough to score a kill.

IF LANING: Start with Sapphire Crystal and 2 pots.Early game, work on getting minion kills and harassing. Your harass combo is simple, Bladesurge to them and then hit them with Equilibrium Strike. This should send them the message to back off. Go back to base when you can at least finish Sheen AND grab boots 1. Don't be afraid to buy more pots, they resell for almost as much as their buy price, and using them wisely will give you the staying power you need.

IF JUNGLING: Grab Cloth Armor and 5 health pots, same as every other jungler. Go to the camp with the two Golems, NOT BLUE. Irelia does NOT NEED TO START WITH BLUE, her primary damage in jungle early game comes from Hiten's active and the occasional Equilibrium Strike. Do golem camp, wraithes, then wolves, hitting up the other side of jungle if your opponents don't have a jungler of their own. B back to base for health and more pots as needed, making sure to make boots 1 the first thing you buy for faster jungling. Try to have at least half of Sheen made before level 4. Sell your Cloth Armor at this point for enough money to either finish Sheen or get the second part of it, then go get Lizard buff and find a good lane to gank. If your gank was successful, heal up with potions on your way to the next gankable lane. If there are no more gankable lanes, then go back to jungling until either mid game, or until you can gank again. Focus on building money and finishing Trinity Force as fast as possible.

Section 7. Mid Game
By now you should have a couple of kills under your belt and very very close to, if not already finishing, your Trinity Force. If laning or jungling, pick up red buff, as the slow will help you immensely. If no one wants blue, grab that too, if for no other reason than denying the other team your golem buff. Now, you are sporting at least one buff at this point, be careful with who you engage with, and don't go it alone unless you know where the opponent is. Stick with at least one other person, play smart, and finish your Gunblade, jungling in your jungle if you can. If you have at least one other person with you, feel free to roam in a small gank squad and take out anyone who pushes too far, or grab dragon. When it comes to team fights, LET THE TANK INITIATE. YOU ARE NOT THE TANK. If you try to get in and initiate a team fight by yourself, you WILL die. Wait until the other team has selected their focus target, then Bladesurge in and wreck the squishiest thing you can find before leaving to circle the perimeter, waiting for a good chance to strike again or chase.

Section 8. Late Game

By now you have Trinity Force, Gunblade, boots 2, either Black Cleaver or a defensive item, and are working on the complement to the other, and the game should nearly be over. Keep working on your item build, and DO NOT WANDER OFF ON YOUR OWN. Grab elixirs if you like, and follow the same rules of waiting before engaging. Make sure your team keeps a ward on Baron if at all possible, all that good stuff.

Section 9. Misc
This is the spot where I put anything I forgot.

Current Version: 1.0, 01/18/11

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I like it, can't wait to try it.

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Finally! It's is actually someone who played Irelia more than ten Times that makes a guide for her.
This is the closest guide to describe how I play irelia, yet not exactly the same.
IMO, mp5/lvl runes are required, because she's quite mana hungry early and mid game.

I go with Arpen red, mp5/lvl yellow, cdr or mp5/lvl blue, health quints.

For masteries, I don't think being 21 in utility is the best way to use the masteries. I usually go 21 in offense, but I also tried 9/21/0 and, while less effective, she's more tanky.

I see her as an assassin more than a carry ad or ap, kinda like akali. They both have great burst, and they both can survive in a teamfight after killing the enemy carry (lifesteal with ult and escape helped with her passive, situationnal stun, situationnal get-away q)

I don't jungle with her, because she really shines in a solo lane, and I mean reaaaaally. Try her on mid, you'll see for yourself.
I max q and e first, and take the ult when available, I DON'T put a point in w until I have maxed q and e , this is how I find her the most effective and deadly.

For early game, I go doran's shield and a heatlth pot., when I got 1600ish (I think it's 1235 for sheen + 350 for boots, so 1585)I b and buy sheen and boots 1 , I finish triforce, then usually black cleaver, but triforce is really what matters the most. For boots, you already have built-in merc, so I go Ionian boots, or attack speed, or celerity.

your build is real good too. I already tried that way of playing her, but my build fits more to my playstyle.

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Trinity Force, Hextech Gunblade, Black Cleaver is an incredibly expensive core. That's roughly 11,000 gold without boots and you are still paper thin on a character with no reliable escapes. Games are often over before anyone has made that much. I've only played Irelia a dozen or two times and this is actually fairly close to what I do item wise, my runes/masteries are different for laning and I jungle pure AS, except my core is trinity and boots followed by some survivability then a black cleaver/brutalizer.

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Senior Member


I agree completely that she needs to be built hybrid. I also agree with mindfuneral that your core is too expensive to not have any survivability. However, one thing I have noticed, is builds work largely around your elo. once you start gaining (or losing for that matter) elo, most of the times your builds on your characters need to change to adjust.

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Senior Member


That core is ridiculously expensive.

Trinity and Yomuu are enough for a core IMO, after that I've built survivability and had major success.

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Junior Member


Well, I also said that if you are getting focused or feel the need to, to build your survivability item after Hextech Gunblade.

Then you continue with your core.

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Junior Member


While overall I think this is a great guide to Irelia, I disagree with the item build. The other posters are right...its too expensive. On paper Tri-force looks like a great hybrid item and is but I think Lich Bane is a better and cheaper solution for Irelia. It provides better damage plus resistance. Tri-force only provides what Sheen does: 100% of your BASE damage. Great early, crappy late. Lich gives 100% of total AP which will be double what your base damage is by the time you complete it. Here is what I do:

Manamune (2110) - Paired with the mana from sheen and your natural mana gain you just bought a 70 damage item for dirt cheap that also fixes her mana problems!

Sheen (1260) - For obvious reasons and the main reason for Tri-force anyway. Later turned into Lich Bane.

Heart of Gold (975) - Takes care of your early game squishyness and pays for itself by the time you get rid of it for another late game survivability item or turn it into a Randuin's.

Nashor's Tooth (2885) - Attack speed/AP/and almighty CDR! You are playing as a burst assassin not DPS, the CDR makes you more viable.

Merc Treads (1200) - Extra CC reduction. They will never lock you down! (really your preference though)

(later you will grab Hextech, Lich Bane, and a better survivability item if it goes long)

Grand total - 8400!! (with boots by the way) not 11,000 and you took care of everything Tri-force provides and then some.

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Senior Member


TF actually provides 150% of your base damage (~150 @ 18) but also provides a slow chance, which is very useful.

That said, Manamune + Nashor's is a very potent and inexpensive combination... it gives you all kinds of useful stats in numbers high enough to be significant.

I don't have a lot of Irelia experience yet, but I like LW for armor pen. It gives you all of your pen up-front (unlike BC), which means your proc from TF or LB will hit hard first time, every time. Plus, it's a bit cheaper, so you can get your pen sooner and move on.

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I don't like necessarily spreading my trade secrets but I'll drop a couple things.

One I picked up from bigfatjiji... try learning to toggle y when using your ult (lock camera on char).

Number 2: Never forget to take advantage of the fact that Irelia is almost completely NOT ITEM DEPENDANT. Trinity force is the only offensive item she needs to rape face.

That is all.