Irelia Review and Theorycraft

Will Irelia save Ionia? Spaiikz is here with the first impressions and a theorycraft.

We’re pretty much there, Runeterra. Today we’ve seen the last of spoilers – Irelia and her support cards were revealed. Tomorrow is the day, new expansion!

A while back I talked about how Ionia is in a tough spot and this expansion is their moment to shine in the Shurima set. Ionia’s hopes and dreams are riding on this new champion for the coming months. In this article, I’ll theorycraft a deck with Irelia and review her support cards individually as well. Below you can find the rating system we are going to use.

  • 5.0: Meta-defining card, potentially a staple in multiple top-tier archetypes.
  • 4.0: Archetype staple, or auto-include in multiple archetypes.
  • 3.0: A solid playable, could serve as a staple for some archetypes.
  • 2.0: Can be used for specific synergies, or to counter some decks.
  • 1.0: Unlikely to find its place in the meta.

Irelia – 3.5

Irelia is definitely is looking decent – she is a low-cost champion that works great in her archetype. With Irelia, you’re going to focus on swarming the board and summon synergies. There are multiple ways of using this strategy. Some of the more obvious pairings that come to mind are Miss Fortune and Azir, who both synergize well with Blade Dance.

Irelia’s Flawless Duet is a cheap way of summoning Blades and triggering a free attack. She also has Quick Attack and the same stat-line as Zed. Back in the day, he used to be almost unblockable on turn 3, but in the current meta, it is a lot easier to have 4 effective health on your blocker by that time. However, unlike Zed, Irelia does not have to attack herself if it is not safe, and can just rely on a Flawless Duet to proc the attack for MF or Azir.

Irelia’s level-up is also pretty straightforward and simple. She does not need to be on the board to level, which is always a good thing about a champion. I do not expect Irelia to level super early on, but around turn 6 or 7. She will not be leveled when you play her on-curve, but this is not a huge deal as she herself provides a way to accelerate her level-up.

After she levels she generates a Bladesurge when allies attack. This card enables and protects Irelia for the turn as she can swap with another ally for no cost. Overall I expect Bladesurge to be useful, but rarely game-winning. This is fine though as Irelia only costs 3 mana and her level-up requirement is not that hard, so you wouldn’t expect an insane level-up.

Irelia’s Vanguard’s Edge is likely where she falls a bit flat. The spell is very expensive and seems to be very slow for the deck. Irelia’s followers provide similar effects at a much lower cost. This will make double-drawing Irelia feel bad, but it will likely not affect her power level that much as a champion overall.

This is one of the champion pairings that people have been talking about probably the most. Sand Soldiers have natural synergy with Blade Dance and I think this will be one of the archetypes to look out for on release day. The deck is focused on a very aggressive swarm your board style similar to the current Azir Lucian deck. It has more synergy, but that also makes it more linear in playstyle. 

The list is running a lot of cheap units that benefit from summoning units such as Coastal Defender, Sparring Student, and Greenglade Duo. Those units will get big fairly quickly and become a threat to deal with. Azir and Inspiring Marshal will make the small token units more menacing in the mid-game.

The deck does benefit from the protection spells Ionia is offering such as Deny, Nopeify!, and the new Syncopation. You can also use Syncopation as a finisher by swapping two units and hitting the enemy Nexus with some big unit – which could be Azir or Coastal Defender.

Ancient Preparation and Preservarium are included to add a bit more consistency – this deck needs certain cards to work together as a whole. Not having those crucial pieces in hand will mean that you are going to be playing average cards on their own. I also included Homecoming as a 1-of to disrupt bigger units such as Nasus. This isn’t too bad in the deck because you are playing a lot of cheap units which can be recalled for little cost. 

The games you will be winning most likely will be off Azir and/or Emperor’s Dais coming down on the board early, followed up with Blade Dance in the subsequent turns. In some other games, you might sneak a win off an early Sparring Student or Greenglade Duo followed by a lot of summon effects. Irelia should have no problem leveling in a deck like this and might be flipped as early as turn 5.

Ribbon Dancer – 3.5

Ribbon Dancer seems like one of the stronger followers in this archetype. This is mainly because of the low mana cost. Having a cheap way to activate a ‘free attack’ effect seems to be premium in this archetype.

While the unit itself is not that well statted and only summons 1 Blade, it probably will perform better than some of the other cards due to the low mana cost.

Syncopation – 4.5

This is another solid addition to the suite of protection tools already available in Ionia, such as Deny, Retreat, and Nopeify!.

Syncopation seems powerful as swapping units can create very tricky situations for the opponent to play around. I do think there is some redundancy – every extra card that is similar in effect will compete for the same slot and it is likely that decks do not want to run 3 copies of every protection spell.

This one is fairly flexible though and in many spots, it will be an effective Deny at a lower cost and uncounterable at burst speed. I expect this card to see a good amount of play in a variety of decks and be a real consideration for any Ionia deck.

Lead and Follow – 2.0

An interesting card that is similar to Retreat – it is more of a tempo loss, but enables attack synergies.

I think that it will be too hard to play Lead and Follow proactively and make it worth 3 mana. It is intended to be played in response, similar to Retreat.

I expect it might find a place in a deck that cares about attack effects, but also have something they deem worthy of protecting. But I can imagine this card might surprise us in how good it might be.

Blossoming Blade – 2.0

Blossoming Blade summons more Blades than Ribbon Dancer, but it also has a higher mana cost. The stats of the unit have increased, but not super-significantly for the cost.

This is definitely one of the cards on a lower power level as Blade Dance units mostly are going to be played for the ‘free attack’ clause most likely and will likely not care that much about the actual amount of Blades summoned.

Coastal Defender – 3.0

This is essentially a stat-stick, and Ionia did not have many of those in the past.

6 health is a big deal on turn 4. Irelia and her cards summon a lot of units which means that this very often can easily be a 6/6.

I think the name of the card gives us a hint at the function it will have. On attack, Coastal Defender will often get chump-blocked since it doesn’t have any keywords, but on defence your opponent will have a hard time getting past this unit except if they open-attack while it still only has 2 power. I think this card could be used as a defensive option in certain metas.

Vanguard’s Edge – 0.5

This spell is looking to be over-costed for what it does. It is a pseudo-rally for 7 mana which comes with 3 Blades. Looking at other cards with Blade Dance, we’ve seen that Blades themselves aren’t worth much mana as shown by their costs.

I just do not see this card make sense in any deck, unfortunately. There are cheaper ways to summon and cheaper ways to activate additional attacks – and combining those effects is not worth this cost. The only way you should expect to see this card is in specific scenarios when it is Irelia’s champion spell.

Zinneia, Steel Crescendo – 1.0

At a cost of 8 mana, units need to have super-strong effects that late into the game

Playing this card will have the same effect as Ribbon Dancer, but comes with the bonus that your Blade Dances now will have 3 Elusive damage attached to them.

Activating this multiple times could be decent, but there are too many ways to counter this, so I really do not see this as a playable card as it has too high of a cost for too little impact.

Closing Thoughts

Irelia seems very interesting and offers multiple ways of deck building with her. I do not think any of these cards are super high in power level individually, but they have good synergy and can definitely create a good deck.

You want to focus on swarm or attack payoffs but could skew the deck to either be aggressive or, possibly, more midrange, playing for a few very strong turns in the mid-game. I can see both ways being quite effective and see either come out on top would not surprise me.

Overall, I’m quite happy with these reveals as it is giving new idea – Blade Dance – for an old school Ionia playstyle of swarming the board. I do expect Irelia to be the most popular out of the 3 new champions released in the new expansion. A lot of people will be looking to play Ionia and Irelia is a popular character in the League of Legends universe.

I think there will be multiple different decks including Irelia on the first few days of the release. Over the coming weeks, I expect Irelia to find its premium refined list – most likely not a Tier 1 though as it is always hard to overthrow the current top decks. 

Thanks for reading and if you would like to keep up to date with my articles or deck ideas, you can follow me on Twitter. Till next time Runeterra.


Spaiikz is a high level Runeterra player who is consistently high up on the ladder rankings and has finished top 8 in the seasonal tournament. Now he is also looking to share his knowledge about Runeterra by writing articles and coaching. The first card games Spaiikz competed in was Hearthstone, in which he managed to finish Rank 1 Legend.

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