Effectively climbing with Illaoi
Pressure your enemies to victory
Best Overall Runes
Welcome to the guide on climbing with Illaoi
This is a guide with a focus on consistently winning games by recognizing patterns and following a game plan to keep a positive win rate. I've been maining Illaoi ever since the mini-rework in season 9, when she was at her peak. Since then I've been discussing with other high ELO Illaoi mains on how to play her.
After Kleptomancy was removed from the game a lot changed for Illaoi, but since the recent fighter item rework in 12.3 and buffs in 12.4 she has become a stronger champion than she has been in the past 2 years.
For people familiar with Illaoi; check out the paragraphs about Consistency, Q max and post laning.
For people who are new to Illaoi and came here looking to learn the champion start with the laning; items, runes and summoner spells are elaborated further down the guide. However, because we aim for consistency, we just want to stick to one build as much as possible, and instead focus on other important aspects.
Special thanks for helping me with this guide go out to both my editor and Biertje.
Biertje has been a grandmaster Illaoi one-trick for the past 3 years on the EUW server. A lot of the information in this guide is inspired by the way he plays, also confirming it works in any rank.
Illaoi is very strong to climb the ladder
The easiest way to get higher in soloQ is by playing consistently, which means that you have to find recurring patterns. If you win your lane every game, or are able to stay useful when you lose your lane, you will win most of your games.
A stat that is often quoted is that 30% of the games is a certain win, 30% is a certain loss, and the other 40% is up to your own playing. This means that if you always play right and don't lose the game too hard on your own you can turn that 40% in your own favour.Illaoi as a champion takes a while to get used to, but once you get the hang of her it's easy to recognize patterns and make her work every game.
Obviously, when you master a champion and know all the ins and outs, you can vary the way you play every game. But if you focus too much on one possible outcome of the game, your new build will put you in a position of disadvantage in case of an unforeseen event, whereas your regular build would allow you to adapt to the new situation accordingly. (Example: you built tanky and sticky to counter a Tryndamere, but the enemy Vel'koz gets fed. Now you are no longer in the position to adjust)
Q max (and abilities)
- Skill Path
It is often discussed what is better for Illaoi to max: E or Q. There are a couple of right answers to this. Some people prefer maxing E and can make it work. The winrate difference between Q max and E max swings a lot and is never more than 0,5%.
Still I think the Q max, especially when climbing, is performing better on all elo's versus all kinds of opponents. The reason for this is that it works under any circumstance, versus any class.
What happens with E max
When you max E you can hit it more often, because the cooldown gets lower. However if you miss it, you have no resources left to win a trade and higher skilled opponents will use this opportunity to run you down. Another downside is how it's difficult to kill the spirit. Yes, the spirit transfers more damage, but there is no point if you don't have enough damage to kill it before the enemy laner runs out of its range.
What happens with Q max
Putting points in
What actually is the point of Test of Spirit ?
With this build, levels 1 through 10 we don't actually use the spirit to directly damage the enemy champion. What it is useful for is to secure lane dominance: once you kill the spirit the enemy will spawn 3 tentacles, which can be used to push in the wave with W while your enemy is dodging slams. On top of that you spawn a champion, which is useful because your slams heal you for every champion you hit. It also spawns an additional tentacle for your R when you hit the spirit.
Consistency and matchups
Illaoi's strongest point is that from level 5 she has the single strongest lane dominance in the toplane. She has more pushing power than any other toplaner and can maintain near perfect CS while punishing the enemy whenever they walk up. Because of how her ultimate rewards her for hitting multiple people she can very well turn a gank into her favour.
Into tanks the lane is free, ending in 5 plates, 40+ CS lead and maybe a few kills.
You can push tanks in real quick and will always outsustain them by hitting tentacle slams. They lack the mobility to move out of your abilities and rely on hitting CC which you can block with a well timed
Bruisers are mostly a skill matchup, but often result in a CS lead and. Winning the lane or not is decided by ganks and misplays. Against bruisers, Illaoi should win about 70% of the time without jungle interference or about 50% of the time with jungle interference. A lot of champions require to be poked down a little before you can fight them. These are
Marksmen are a weakness to Illaoi, but because we max Q we can keep farming and still go even. When they misstep, they can be run down quickly and above that they are vulnerable to ganks. Skill and jungler interference are so influential in this matchup that it is difficult to determine the win chance.
Statcheckers are the only class that wins from Illaoi throughout the entire game. By this I mean champions like
Champion specific matchups.
As we just said, statcheckers are your worst enemy. Yi and Olaf top aren't played much, however Tryndamere is played quite often in toplane and should be either banned or dodged.
Mordekaiser deserves another spot, because all your tentacles and spirit disappear when he uses his R -
Ban either Mordekaiser or Tryndamere, whoever is played more on the current patch.
Laning phase and patterns.
As I said earlier; learning Illaoi and climbing effectively is all about recognizing the patterns and building muscle memory.
What makes Illaoi good for beginners is her effortless farm capabilities. She shoves waves like no other champion and you should therefore keep focusing on clearing waves throughout the game
You always start with Q. W can be better for trades, but you'll lose CS.
When you start the game, make sure you don't place tentacles in inconvenient spots, blocking the spawn place for others. More info about this further down.
The first thing that happens at level 1 is a pattern we want to create in every single game, regardless of the champions. Wait for the first 3 minions to become low health and then smack them with one Q. While doing so try to look for an angle to hit the enemy laner as well. With only Q you can't fight so wait for your Q cooldown to farm the caster minions.
The first melee minion on the second wave is where you’ll become level 2. With a point in W we can look for short trades; line up the wave or hit the enemy when he's lined up with the wave to get priority.
When you hit level 3 you can look for E. Once you've hit an E you can get lane dominance because of the many tentacles that get spawned and the enemy that has to walk away.
Now at level 4, with another point in Q, you can use both Q and W to push the wave.
Level 4-5. starting a push
Once you put more points in your Q, you can consistently shove the wave against any matchup. Take the minion aggro and line them up in front of a tentacle. Auto-attack one melee minion, then W another and while the tentacle slams, use your Q to slam the whole wave. At this point you still need to wait for W cooldown to finish the wave with a third slam.
Fish for an E when you're sure you can land it, for example when the enemy walks up to attack you or walks up for a minion. If you have pushed the enemy under their tower, heavily harass them with Q. E is easy to hit if they stand between the tower and the wall, or if they walk up for a minion. If you're low on resources and used up corruption you can go base and teleport back. Teleport is important to keep tempo and prevent tentacles from disappearing
From level 5 you can kill the casters with 2 slams, so line up the wave, hit the melee with W and Q the whole wave. Hit down the last melees with auto attacks.
For cannon waves, you focus the Cannon minions with your W.
Laning from level 6
Most of the time you will hit level 6 before the enemy because you've been pushing. If you also poked them down enough you can threaten a dive which will work against nearly all champions while they're still level 5. If they're under 60% health you first have to land an E. If they're 30% or lower you can simply stand next to them, lure out some of their abilities, then R and hit with an W, which will hit 2 quick tentacle slams.
Example killing a wave
Example killing wave while zoning the enemy
Continue pushing and harassing the enemy. While you are pushing, your team's jungler can focus on the bottom side of the map to gain a lead. You may attract attention from the enemy jungler because you're pushed in all the time. Most of the time you're too slow to flee, instead try to 1v2. During a gank the enemies are forced to walk into you, which is ideal for Illaoi as you can hit a free E. Try to stall until you can hit both enemy champions and the spirit with an R, otherwise hit the engaging enemy and the spirit with R. More info on ability usage and fighting is further down.
From level 9 and when not too far behind you can one hit the caster minions. Adjust your farming pattern accordingly from this point. If you line up the waves correctly, you can one hit the casters while finishing the melee minions with Q.
Throughout the laning phase you build up a big gold lead: while you clear all minions your enemy stays down on CS because you harass them. While the minions hit the tower, with you occasionally sweeping in with a W, you can secure plates.
Up to level 13 you keep improving on the 1v1, because you're finally getting points in E. Through levels 8 to 13 you can 1v1 any champion if you manage to hit an E.
Example level 6 vs level 5 dive
Diving after hitting an E
Dying in lane
Dying in lane is not an issue at all. As soon as you come back to lane you follow through your patterns again, farming the wave, pushing down the enemy and harassing the enemy. Because of you getting more farm and plates, you will always stay useful, even if you were solo killed twice. Early deaths are irrelevant because of how strong Illaoi becomes in midgame.
Closing out lane
You keep pushing waves, pressuring the enemy and thus giving your jungler freedom to focus on the rest of the map. This will result in Illaoi's team coming out mostly on top in the mid game (important pattern). With Hullbreaker completed, you've entered raid boss mode and can smash down the enemy turret. Whatever the situation is, whether you died twice and lost your tower or have been camped, you're looking to have destroyed the enemy tower at around 15 minutes (another pattern). Hullbreaker can help you secure this goal. Even if your own tower is destroyed and the enemy is ahead, you can still look to 1v2 the enemy, just because you're Illaoi.
After first tower
At 14 minutes tower plating falls and unleashed teleport is unlocked. Normally toplaners will look to help the rest of the map from this point on, but Illaoi needs setup before she's useful in a fight. This means she's a terrible teleport flanker. Instead, you keep pushing down the enemy toplaner and try to destroy the inner tower (pattern). Your enemy can't teleport because you're too threatening, and if they do they'll lose one or two turrets to your hullbreaker. The second reason you keep pushing is because you're stronger than any other champion. However, even at this point, you still want to avoid random fights because this can result in a loss of tempo. Just push in and harass the enemy under the inner turret. If anyone ganks you and you hit an E, you can fight back. Staying top will keep even more pressure on the enemy team and will attract attention, making it easier for your own team to get advantages elsewhere on the map, like securing outer turrets or dragons.
The third reason to take the inner tower is because it's worth 600 gold, further increasing your lead. Your goal is to be far ahead on every enemy in levels, gold, and objectives, before you start to fall off from level 13 onward.
When pushing past the outer turret you can look for the jungle camps. They grant you additional gold while taking it away from the enemy jungler.
After you secure the inner tower you can rotate, moving to bot and taking both bot towers to secure your lead even further. From this point on you take whatever you can take.
The art of splitpushing and ending the game
The secret of split pushing is attracting attention from the enemy but not dying, because you can threaten to dive the enemy toplaner if they don't come .
While pushing a sidelane, you want to keep a close eye on the map at all times. When you notice people are missing you start to calculate in your head. Are the missing enemies a threat to me? Can I 1v2/3/4 them? Can I outplay them? If not, you back away to the edge of the enemy's vision. This means you hover at the edge of the fog of war. The enemy is unsure whether you've backed far away, or maybe came to your team's help. Stay out of vision until enough enemies have shown on the map again. “Enough” being the amount of enemies you think you can deal with. So which champions are actually a danger to you?
Illaoi can basically handle an unlimited amount of melee champions and always come out on top. Be careful of enemies with a lot of kiting, range or mobility. If you can't guarantee hitting E on the enemy it's not safe to stay. For example, if the Xayah and Janna come for aid it's impossible to hit E, engage or disengage. However, if the support is not Janna but Nautilus, who walks straight at you, you might look for a turn because you can guarantee to hit E on Nautilus.
From 17 minutes on you always want to position yourself on the opposite side of the map of where the current objective is. When Baron is up you want to push bot lane. When a drake fight is coming, you want to pressure top. If people come to deal with you, your team can secure the objective, and you might be able to teleport to aid your team while you have a numbers advantage. (important pattern)
Keep going with hovering on vision, drawing attention, being annoying and securing towers until you've secured both inner towers. From this point on you can try to do the same split pushing trick to pressure inhibitor turrets. If people come up you just move back, 1v3 or teleport to the objective to secure it.
Unless you can get a great fight or play cleanup crew, don't bother teleporting to aid your team. Illaoi just can't deal with the mobility and 200 years of game balance in season 12 nor can she fight without the right setup. You'll achieve much more with split pushing than with trying to turn a fight and ending up getting kited.
Yes, helping your team might help you get the win, however we want to climb so we choose for the more consistent way to win and don't coinflip for the teamfight.
In the above video we see Illaoi versus
In this example the red team loses a straight 4v4. If there was a ward in midlane and a good angle, teleporting would be an option. However Karma and Ahri got caught. Due to Illaoi's pressure the two kills got traded for an inner tower (worth 600 gold) resulting in a somewhat even trade.
Ranged champions are believed to be a counter to Illaoi, but this is not entirely true. They are annoying early game and outscale late game, because they're hard to hit with E. However, if the laning phase through levels 4 to 11 are still the same, they don't have the waveclear to keep Illaoi under her turret. The only difference in lane is that it might take a minute longer before you can hard push, but you for sure can. This matchup is the same in all elo’s, as long as you stick to your game plan and push in as usual, you will eventually hit an E and secure lane dominance. Additionally, they're a lot more vulnerable to a burst combo once you've hit them with an E.
An effective way to hit your E is to hold on to using it and analyze the enemy's movement patterns. Don't be afraid to let the enemy hit you a couple of times. If you understand how they move hitting
Example getting priority after hitting a single E
Example of punishing ranged matchup
When the game comes to a point where there is an enemy champion which counters you got fed play accordingly. You don't want to try and face them because you will never win. Play for the lane where the fed enemy is not present. Hope for your team to not get stomped while you pressure a splitpush. Only the fed enemy member can counter you in the splitpush so you will have to bait him out and then run. This gives your team breathing space to make plays and you can look to move to another lane or join up with your team to fight. Start over and once the fed enemy comes, move somewhere else. Examples of these champions are
All of these have in common that they can reliably dodge your
Ability usage, tricks and combo's
A lot of the gameplay I described depends on pulling off a 1v3. To effectively fight all the enemies at once we need to understand how we fight.
Passive / tentacle management Prophet of an Elder God
You spawn tentacles every 20-7.25 seconds. The cooldown of the spawn goes down with level
Tentacles fully spawn after 2 seconds
They reveal control wards
Tentacle slams heal Illaoi 5% missing health
Tentacles don't spawn near each other.
Skilled Illaoi players will talk proudly about tentacle management. However the only trick to it is to not put them in an awkward position. When you accidentally place a tentacle in an unfavourable spot, you can screw up your lane push for the next few minutes.
In lane you want to put them in such a way you can easily line up waves when they meet in the middle, as well as hit the enemy champion with W and make the tentacle hit them.
When your tentacle spawns in an unfavourable spot you can't get rid of it until you're out of range for 30 seconds. During that time it blocks the spawn for ideal tentacles.
Be especially careful when leaving the jungle as tentacles will often spawn on the wrong side of the rock, blocking the ideal spot on the other side!
Unfavourable spots: avoid those
E - Test of Spirit
We talked about this ability before in the section about Q max. From levels 1 - 7 hitting E is only used to gain lane dominance, heal back up or assist with your
Important notes about the ability:
Tentacles hit the spirit if its centre is inside the tentacles range.
Tentacles spawned by Vessels can spawn closer to other tentacles.
The Vessel gets hit by tentacles every 5.5/4.5/3.5 seconds at level 1/7/13
It slows 80% for 1.5s on killing the spirit
Cast time and pulling animation of 0.75 seconds (self root)
Counts as a champion for passive healing and ultimate (and items and runes)
It grants 25G to its killer
So when you hit E, what do you do? Well we want to burst it down. The ideal combo is:
Auto attack -> reset W -> Q on both the spirit and enemy -> AA -> reset W
this way it will get smashed 4 times in the least time. The autoattacks are important for additional conqueror stacks.
Q - Tentacle Smash
Nothing interesting that hasn't been said. only thing to note is that it also hits enemies just behind and next to you. This makes it so you don't have to reposition too much when killing a minion wave. Try to look for angles where you can hit both the wave and the enemy champion when using Q.
W - Harsh Lesson
The ability empowers your next auto attack with max health damage and extra range.
using your W in range of a tentacle makes it slam directly at the target. This makes it a great abiltity to both farm but also zone of enemy champions. Try to line up the minion wave so when you hit your W on a minion the tentacle smash which follows will hit all 6-7 minions of the wave. This has been further eleborated in the laning guide and its included video's. You can aswell hit a minion which isn't in the middle of the wave to try and hit another target with a tentacle slam. An example for this is when you hit a a melee minion close to the tentacle to hit an enemy champion at the end of the slam, effectively zoning the enemy.
The ability is given a point at level 2. From this point you can start harrrassing the enemy with quick W-attacks to poke them. When they stand both in a minion wave and in front of a tentacle this will also help you push. If you went with
Additionally the ability resets your auto attack timer. This is useful for kiling the spirit, because you can weave in an extra autoattack before using
With our consistent build we always build Sheen items. This also empowers your
Using Harsh Lesson as an escape tool
When pushing past the outer turret you can place a ward over the gromp wall. This provides an escape when enemies come.
Ultimate - Leap of Faith
The ultimate has a lot of cool interactions. To start off, it makes you immune to knockups and knockbacks. Furthermore, it makes your tentacles slam twice as fast and without a hitbox indicator. This can be used to catch fleeing enemies off guard by a quick smash.
Using your ultimate
ALWAYS TRY TO HIT E -
Ideally, you always want to hit both the enemy champion and its spirit. This is what happens when you hit both:
2 tentacles spawn for hitting 2 champions and those instantly smash the spirit. You can hit the spirit with W to ensure it gets killed. When the enemy becomes a Vessel all tentacles will instantly smash the enemy with little chance to dodge.
When you ult on both the enemy and its spirit, try to make the spirit close to 0 hp, so that the next tentacle smash will finish it off, slowing the enemy while he tries to run away.
Blocking a knock-up
A couple of champions rely on knockups to engage or start a CC-chain.
How to 1 versus X
First you want to look for an E. Using
An effective way to hit your E is to hold on to using it and analyze the enemy's movement patterns. Don't be afraid to let the ADC hit you a couple of times. If you understand how they move hitting
Once you've hit or missed your E don't kill it just yet. You want to use your R on as many enemies as possible, including the spirit. Make use of Flash- R to accomplish this. When enemies think they're out of range you flash on their head and wreak havoc. R makes you immune to CC during its cast time, so if it's possible, wait for an enemy to hit you with their main CC to disrupt their engage. For example a knockup for Yasuo or Nautilus/Blitzcrank/Pyke/Thresh hooks.
The tentacles spawning will instantly smash because you have a spirit from your E. If that was enough damage to kill the spirit, continue hitting your W on as many enemies as possible. When the spirit is killed and the enemy becomes a vessel, the tentacles will smash an additional time on top of the vessel. The vessel will also be slowed for 80% by the E, locking it in the middle of your ultimate. Now that most of the enemies have been smashed 4 times you can chase them down 1 by one with your W. For the people who keep their heads cool, it's an option to leave the vessel alive for additional smashes. Most of the time it's hard to keep track who you've hit with which spells, leaving it to a W-smashing party. Even if you die, you will often take others with you, giving space for your team to take objectives. Not only did you attract 4 people to kill you, you also left them low health. Now spam ping your jungler and ask why he hasn't done baron yet while 5 people were botside to kill you.
This video about shows the idea. First
Notice how an auto-attack is weaved in between every
Even though red team was behind in this play. Illaoi was already ahead and came out on top because she had a solid 10 CS/ minute and secured 5 plates during laning phase.
Had Illaoi died during this play her team would still have had an advantage because the 3 enemies need to reset while red team takes mid towers.
Your R has a cast time, during this time you can flash to a place which would have normally been out of your range to hit as many enemy champions as possible. This is a great way to turn fights when getting run down by the enemy. Even if you missed your E prior, you can flash R and smack the enemies with your W, waiting for the E to come back up and close out the fight.
1v5 flash-engage example.
In this clip we see how
The rest of the clip is a little show off and only possible because of how far ahead blue side is and Akshan going AFK halfway into the fight. The point of interest however is using flash to catch out KaiSa and removing the only threat in the fight which was able to kill Illaoi.
Using R to finish off a fleeing foe
R speeds up tentacle slams, which will catch enemies off guard. When an enemy is the vessel and runs away with a sliver of health you can R in place, hitting nothing. However, the spawning tentacles and active tentacles will hit the low health vessel at increased speed. Use this if you just killed a spirit and the opponent flees with <200 health.
Killing fleeing enemies with Leap of Faith
Zyra is hit by
I don't know many. Contact me if you do.
One more trick I can show is the niche mana trick. The mana of Q and E will be drained at the end of the cast time. When you have just a little mana left, you can cast Q or E and activate W while the other ability casts. Activating W will drain the mana otherwise used by the channelled ability that's being cast. This is a cool trick, but won't get you to challenger.
You need the mobility from flash because Illaoi doesn't have any, and teleport to get back to lane quickly and keep your tempo in the early game, as it prevents your tentacles from despawning. Teleport is used for split pushing past laning phase.
- Summs (Role 1)
We start with
Because Illaoi has 350 base movement speed, which is one of the highest in the game,
- Item Set 1
In patch 11.3 the fighter items got a small rework. This made
Sheen item / mythic item
There's a lot of discussion about mythics. Goredrinker, Stridebreaker and frostfire gauntlet can all work. However, they depend more on the situation and can work against you if the situation changes.
When your lane opponent is a fighter or tank, go for
When your opponent is mobile, squishy, ranged, or if you have a good lead (at this point lane phase has come to an end), you can go for
When you fight bruisers, the enemy has mostly melee champs (
After mythic we base our items on the situation. Mostly Death's dance, but Spirit Visage is a great item against a heavy magic damage team because of the extra healing.
- Against squishy/pokers
Conqueror or grasp
For runes the prefered page is conqueror because it scales the best of any runes. The other option is grasp when you need to be dominant early game to survive. Past the laning phase it's not possible to stack grasp effectively and you won't really make use of it in a quick fight. However, it adds in more sustaining minor runes.
Against ranged, squishy or mobile matchups, grasp works well with your W. Take grasp against champions like Akshan, Akali and Kayle.
Conqueror is generally stronger because it scales better past the laning phase, and gives way more value in longer fights and fights against multiple people.
Presence of mind is a must have because of the mana, Last stand is the strongest option to pair with Presence of mind. If the enemy has a lot of CC you can also take legend: tenacity
The secondary page changes every game. When the enemy has heavy CC, you can take unflinching, which pairs well with legend:tenacity. Otherwise, take health if you think you'll need it to survive fights later on. Boneplating, Second wind and Conditioning depend on the lane. You pick Boneplating versus bruisers, Second wind versus poke and Conditioning in a free lane, like
If you don't need any of the above because your lane is free, against tanks or
Share your thoughs, feedback, comments...
however I know 3 other small tricks that could be useful
1) illaoi r dmg itself can also be used to kill the spirit in the r->vessel kill combo to almost guarentee a instant direct slam while the enemy vessel is slowed for 1.5s but its harder to set up. also that illaoi r has a range to empower tentacles a bit bigger than e tether range (iirc)
2) additionally, I think it is worth mentioning that riot changed illaoi r to spawn tentacles in cursor direction (except when flash) from direction of nearest champion since sometimes when kiting away it can spawn the tentacles backwards/wrong if you arent careful.
3) can also flash with e mid animation similar to thresh q, can be used to dodge important enemy abilites / reposition (ie vs sett and fio) while casting an ability yourself or agressivly e+flash->r since u can use it to guarentee hit on priority target + always have spirit in middle of ult (vs e r flash or vessel -> r flash)
also not sure if guide mentions that you cant flash during q too, but new players may assume its like darius or morde q.
this is a very good and detailed guide without being super confusing. very good guide overall! :)
also, is sorcery secondary with grasp or conq good? I know Dirtymobs on na likes to take sorcery a lot with manaflow transcendance / storm, maybe into mana spending lanes or smth