Twisted Fate, Garen, Jarvan IV or even Lux. Illaoi has been associated with a lot of other champions in order to find the perfect list, and it might be the case that the specific 40 cards still haven’t been figured out.
One might think this constant chase for the perfect list could mean that Illaoi still isn’t a good champion to play. You could also say that for an archetype still developing, being able to post a win rate close to 55% for the past week is quite impressive. I mean, imagine what can Illaoi achieve once the perfect deck will be figured out and will be the most popular deck as well!
So in this guide, we’re going to talk about what can Illaoi Demacia achieve already, and what unrealized potential we might still be able to explore.
Illaoi Demacia is a very board based, and one could say dependent, kind of deck. The whole point is to abuse the Tentacle synergy as our point of emphasis. Helping this synergy with support units and the usual Demacia staples to creative a cohesive deck.
A typical game with Illaoi Demacia starts with looking to spawn safely and getting our synergy going. Against a rather fast opponent, this plan might require an extra step of trading our opponent key units before focusing on this development phase. This possibility is exactly why we are running early challenger units, in order to make sure we aren’t starting our Spawn gameplan behind on board or already taking too much damage in.
After this early fighting for the right to spawn on our own terms, we should be able to play proactively in the midgame, a phase the deck really shines in.
Rounds 3 to 6 are where an Illaoi deck is looking to make a difference and setup for its late game push. Through The Sea’s Voice, Illaoi and Tentacle Smash mostly, we are looking to force our opponent into a reactive role, fighting to keep our Tentacles at bay. If we can snowball our synergy out of control, then the deck can keep its foot on the gas pedal and keep pressuring until it transfers into nexus damage.
Obviously, Illaoi is the most important unit in our deck during this phase, not necessarily to recklessly attack with the champion, but simply to represent a big threat and improve our Spawn capacity. As long as Illaoi is on the board, any Spawn we would trigger immediately represents a potential bonus to Illaoi on our next attack. This creates a very oppressing situation for the opponent, who feels forced to answer the Tentacles as soon as they arrive on the board.
After round 6, we do not have any “bombs” in our deck (cards like Captain Farron which can represent a win condition on their own) but a lot of impactful cards. Thanks to cards like Eye of Nagakabouros and both our support champions, it is quite difficult to run this build out of cards. This support allows the pilot to keep the pressure up, not worrying about slowing down because the possibilities are lacking.
A positive endgame for Illaoi Demacia can either be achieved with a devastating Overwhelm attack with Illaoi or a Tentacle supported with The Sea’s Voice, or with our support cards allowing us to run the opponent out of defensive tools, as answering the flow of Tentacles can often be too much if you don’t turn the pressure around.
Techs Cards and Options
Illaoi Demacia is still a developing deck, so keep in mind that each player’s view on how the archetype should be play will impact a lot of the cards making it into the final 40.
While the Spawn package is pretty much an auto-include, the support cards can vary a lot, ranging from helping to protect the board to increasing our capacity to apply some pressure.
In the decklist presented at the top of the guide, most cards quantity can be played with as well, even though I will highlight here the cards I did not include.
Considering our goal is to help our Tentacles survive, and with Petricite Broadwing in the deck as well, the card makes sense.
The reason I did not include it was to favor Single Combat and edge against board-centric decks rather than removal based ones. Also, with Noxus being the popular counter to Demacia decks, adding more health to our units doesn’t really help against Disintegrate or Scorched Earth.
The third champion we could include in this deck, Garen acts more as another threat than a real support.
Most of the time, the +1|+1 he grants when being played is quite irrelevant, our goal being to grow a big unit rather than buffing several ones. The big benefit to Garren is the Rally he provides when leveling up, as it helps the deck bring a ton of pressure and close games faster.
Another champion we can play in this deck, Lux pushes the deck towards more of a control, grindy playstyle than the other choices.
With the deck already featuring some good spells, it is possible to level and use Lux in this deck, but the main reason why she felt out of flavor is that she pushes the deck to play a slower game.
Once the deck establishes dominance onto the board, it isn’t looking to grind the opponent as a primary goal, rather keep in mind the fact that it is something doable. As such, Lux can be a good tech champion if you are looking to target Scouts for example.
A good card to help the final push once we got the Tentacles’ synergy going and looking to accelerate even more. But it often feels like a win more card.
Most of the time, Golden Aegis is a more flexible card to use in the deck as it allows us to attack with anything rather than just the Tentacles. The reason for that is because if the Tentacles are rolling, we are usually already in a great position. While if the opponent manages to deal with the Tentacles, we will need to find another way to get the pressure going, making Buhru Leader a 3 mana 3/2 then.
You are nothing without the board
Outside Twisted Fate‘s red card, this deck does literally nothing when without a presence on the board. Because of this, developing and protecting our board is key to winning any match up, whether we are the aggressor or the defender.
A simple method to keep in mind is a 3-step course of action: Develop – Accelerate – Push!
Develop is the mandatory part of getting set on the board so the deck can function. Once done, we can accelerate and leverage our board to force the opponent into a reactive stance. Lastly, push in order to get this pressure to translate into damage.
If at any point in the game, your opponent manages to stop you on the board, then we just go back to step 1 and rebuild our pressure.
Illaoi is both a passive and active win condition
The primary goal when playing Illaoi obviously is to use her as a giant beat stick to crush the opponent. At times however, we can also play a little more passively to ensure she levels up and benefit from the +1 Spawn bonus.
With her high health pool, Illaoi is very difficult to remove if she doesn’t take any damage in combat. Even though it is very tempting to attack with her to get some solid damage in, there are match ups where it is better to keep her safe and simply wait for her to level up, or attack only once we can grant Barrier to our champion.
Especially against Noxus, a region who loves interacting with damaged units, saving Illaoi can force a lot of things out of your opponent’s hand to remove her from the board.
Don’t make it too complicated
At the end of the day, Illaoi Demacia is a pretty straight forward deck. We are looking to develop the board and use it to beat down our opponent. Therefore in a lot of matches, this is all we need to know to pilot the deck.
The main important information we need to make a good decision is to know whether we are in a development driven phase or a damage driven one. Once we know what we are playing for, it should be kind of clear what the available plays are in that specific situation.
Matchups and Mulligan Guide
– Thralls – Very Favored
- Thralls have a pretty though time defending the board against our mid-sized units until they can get their big summon turn. Develop aggressively as long as you aren’t weak to Avalanche and Blighted Ravine.
- Without any hard removal in their deck, the opponent can’t really stop us from Spawning huge Tentacles. Beware of the freezing effect which can deny your attack though. Once your Tentacle is a big enough threat, consider diversifying your board.
- Illaoi is close to impossible to remove for the opponent. Play and abuse her as much as possible. Cataclysm played early to help her level up is absolutely reasonable even if it doesn’t remove something important for the opponent.
- Without any way to interact with Landmarks, pressuring is our best way to prevent the opponent from focusing on their big summoning turn.
– Annie Jhin – Favored
- This is one of the few match ups where the Tentacles will not be our primary focus. Instead, we want to use our challenger units and combat tricks to dominate the board early.
- We do not play any form of healing in this deck, so limiting the early damage we take is crucial to being able to race back our opponent later on.
- The stun mechanic is one that can slow us down a lot, and remove a big blocker for us potentially. Don’t invest more than necessarily into your Tentacles if you expect them to stun it. Once you have a big Overwhelm attacker, consider the open attack to play around the stuns.
- Focus on removing the units with skills activation upon attack rather than the bigger units. We should never loose a battle based on stats, but Jhin leveling quickly could be a problem.
– Fizz Riven – Slighty Favored
- Both decks are looking to do something similar, which is develop their synergy up to the point they can attack their opponent with a huge unit. We get the nod because we have more way of interacting with their gameplans than they have with ours.
- Fizz should be our priority to remove with our Challenger units. The other threats can be interact with thanks to our combat tricks, making them easier to handle.
- Twisted Fate‘s Gold Card is a big punish for the opponent if they invest too much onto a unit before attacking, like the Blade of the Exile.
- Tentacle Smash and Cataclysm being at slow speed, the timing for those can be a bit tricky. Usually we would want to develop before attacking as the opponent barely has anything to punish us from doing so. However, these spells can justify an open attack and then using them to lower the risk of an opposing open attack next round.
– Galio Bard – Unfavored
- Both decks have a similar way of progressing on the board and dealing with opposing units. We should have more removal spells, but the Chimes can give the opponent the nod early on in trades.
- One big Overwhelm tentacle is great during our attack turn, the opponent not being able to interact efficiently with it, but can be challenged during our defensive turns so we cannot use it for blocking their important units. We should focus on our Spawn when we can win a damage race, otherwise, develop some cheap blockers as well to interact with the opponent’s development.
- Unless we can race and win before turn 7, it is wise to start trading and limit Galio‘s potential to buff the opponent’s board. Our better draw capacity can help us as long as Galio doesn’t level up and turns it into a race.
- Galio Bard has very little punishes to our combat tricks, meaning we can often commit those before they attack to remove potentially problematic challenger units.
– Elise Viego – Unfavored
- Noxus is a very difficult region to get going against with this deck. Our goal is to dominate the early game, mainly remove Elise with Petricite Broadwing, so we can snowball in the midgame while the opponent tries to catch up.
- Legion Deserter, Invasive Hydravine and Viego make it really difficult to win the lategame for us, we need to get going before turn 5 so the opponent cannot safely develop these big units.
- If possible, invest your spells into undamaged units. Otherwise the opponent can remove our unit with Ravenous Flock or Scorched Earth and build some tempo. The opponent plays Vengeance but it at least costs a lot of mana.
- If you see an opening, go for it, especially with your big overwhelm units. If the opponent didn’t kill it when they had the chance, it is likely we can abuse the unit with a Cataclysm or Golden Aegis.
– Pantheon Yuumi – Very Unfavored
- Pantheon has a very similar way of operating as we do, except they tend to scale their units better than we do. We need to snowball early on to have a chance in this.
- The silence mechanic is something we can’t really do anything about. If we play around it and keep our Tentacles small, we can’t fight the board, so we have to expose ourselves to a potential punish.
- Pantheon’s level up usually is a game winner for the opponent, we have Twisted Fate‘s gold card as a possibility but would rather just push for lethal before it comes down to this.
- Hired Gun is a really good card to grant vulnerable to a unit we wish to keep out of blocking duties. It also makes it awkward for the opponent to buff it a lot down the line.
– Ezreal Caitlyn – Very Unfavored
- This match up can quickly become very frustrating to play as it can quickly turn into a pattern of we play something and the opponent removes it. It isn’t something we can do much about so we have to accept to play the match this way.
- Depending on our hand, we can either play a “bait” gameplan or a very straight forward one. The bait gameplan consist of throwing some units straight into our opponent’s removal to help our more important units stay on board afterwards. The straightforward one just consist of hoping the opponent doesn’t find the appropriate card when we play a key unit.
- It is much safer to try and go wide on the board rather than going for a huge unit. The sweet spot is undamaged 3 health units.
- We can’t really afford to play it safe, or try to protect our nexus from potential damage. Every time we take a defensive stance, we also give the opponent more time to find control tools and advance towards their win condition.
When looking at the matchup table, I realized there could be some concern regarding Illaoi Demacia. All four unfavored matchups are quite popular on the ladder currently which indicates an uphill battle to climb with the deck.
Yet, Illaoi Demacia keeps posting good results across the board and found a way to stay above the 50% win rate threshold ever since the Worldwalker set was released. In my opinion, the capacity the deck has to play proactively and to generate threats even after seeing a tentacle being removed helps the deck anchor a solid win rate.
There is a solid chance Illaoi Demacia never breaks through as a top tier deck, staying a good middle of the pack option until next patch. But even then, managing to be a consideration for close to a month while seeing difficult match ups being popular and not having a clear 40 cards list to rely on is quite an impressive feat.
On this note, this guide comes to an end, hopefully it was helpful to some of you out there. Have any questions? Want to share your list with the archetype or discuss it with me or the rest of the community ? Then join our community Discord here. To get in touch directly, simply for a question or for coaching, you can find me on Twitter.
Good Game Everyone,