I know I’ve been on a mini-hiatus the past couple days, but I have had a chance to catch a game here and there and I think I’ve seen enough of Irelia to put together an impression post. I’ve found her to be incredibly underwhelming and disappointing to play. The things she can do can typically be done better by other champions. That sort of design works when a toon does a lot of different things, but Irelia is just melee DPS, nothing else. It’s not like Morgana, who shields and deals damage and CCs (and still does most of these things better than other characters).
I’m always a little way when Riot releases a melee champion, I think for good reason. Melee is very difficult to balance in this game if you don’t give them a very particular set of skills. They need to be able to close the gap on ranged toons to prevent kiting, they need some sort of defensive ability to keep them alive, and they need to do enough damage to rip up a mage or squishy target as quickly as that target can return the favor.
On the surface, it looks like Irelia has these things. Her passive gives her some CC reduction, she has a dash, and she has two lifesteal skills to keep her alive. With a closer look, though, you can see that her skills don’t work well with one another and lead to confused builds that don’t ultimately scale very well.
Start with her passive – with three enemies on you, Irelia gets 40 percent CC reduction. That’s all well and good, but players still get stunlocked with Mercury Treads, which is essentially what you get from the skill. In short, her passive sucks, and it doesn’t provide the CC she needs. If she was impossible to CC when four or five enemies were nearby, that would be interesting. Obviously you would have to scale down her damage, but it makes the passive actually useful.
Her dash has another issue. While it is good for moving to a target, Irelia has no way to get away from a threat, and her dash can leave her stranded in the middle of a fight. Once there, she doesn’t have a lot of options. Her passive won’t help her get away much, and she can’t leech back enough health in most cases to keep her up.
Her stun is a problem, if only because it’s so conditional. The fact that she has to be lower health than her target suggests that you allow Irelia to get low (lower than her target anyhow), stun, and then leech back your health with her passive lifesteal from both her W skill and her ultimate. That’s fine against one target, but in the midst of a teamfight, she feels very exposed.
Then there’s her W. It grants true damage and fixed lifesteal. The fixed part is very important because it means she doesn’t scale well as a lifesteal champion without buying a lot of lifesteal, instead of buying damage. This prioritizes Bloodthirster for her over Infinity Edge, which is where she would get burst. The true damage is great, but that requires you have a lot of attack speed to make the best of it. Attack speed doesn’t scale very well with the rest of her skills, though. She’s yet another toon that has a complicated and confused item prioritization that ultimately makes every build feel like it’s missing something.
You can see from Phreak’s spotlight how hard a time melee has with attack speed. There are several instances in which he might have had a kill if he didn’t get slowed or stunned by another champion. Irelia’s dash is on such a long cooldown if not used for a killing blow that it doesn’t make for good chasing, and without a good way to her target close at hand, she never gets to make use of all that attack speed. A champion like Tryndamere actually does very well because he can both get into and out of the fight using Spinning Slash and he can slow a group of targets from range. Irelia can only get in on one target, and once in, she can get shut down just like any other melee toon. Her passive just isn’t enough.