Irelia will reignite the bruiser meta, causing top lane mages to make a comeback
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Irelia's major update is right around the corner. Before we take her for a spin in solo queue, we locked her in on the PBE to get an idea of where she stands in the current meta.
Overall, she's strong, possibly too strong, but it's still way too early to call her any sort of OP. Instead, we can assume her damage, tankiness, or utility might be tuned down a bit before her release, and we can look at her kit alone. Based off of those abilities, it seems like she'll fit right into the current evolving meta of League of Legends.
A bruiser in a new bruiser meta
Irelia is a bruiser, but she can build high damage, much like Fiora, to burst down targets as if she were an assassin. She has far more mobility than most bruisers—she can dish out just as much (if not more) damage, and she doesn't have to sacrifice anything for this. That means she's best-in-class, and in a meta that is slowly being dominated more and more by bruisers, she'll own it.
Bruisers like Irelia have been ramping up considerably, and by the time she's released, they should be near the top of the meta. Following massive nerfs to popular tank items in Patch 8.5, a nerf to Aftershock, and the new rune designed to help melee bruisers melt tanks that was introduced this week, tanks' time in the spotlight seems about over. Assassins will rise up, and bruisers will rise up to counter them with high damage and damage mitigation.
The beauty of Irelia's kit, though, is that it can be used in a myriad of ways. Even when the bruiser meta dies off again in a few months, as goes the usual cycle of League, she'll still be very useful as a high-damage diver or even a full-blown tank.
Her new on-hit magic damage and anti-shield passive will make her a potent damage-dealer even when building nothing but health and resistance, although throwing an attack speed item or two into the mix would still be better.
The death of tanks means the death of her counters
Irelia can blow up carries and assassins, and her damage mitigation and gap-closer make her perfect for chasing and disorienting mages, which leaves tanks as her only real counter. That isn't because she can't kill them, because she can, but rather because tanks are usually packed full of easy-to-land crowd control, and that's her bane.
Irelia doesn't have a gap-closer that she can use to dodge things easily, since it can only be used toward enemies. She can't exactly dance around crowd control as easily as an assassin or mobile mage could. This means she can be easily kited and locked down to prevent her from reaching her targets, but a good player using her new kit will just turn on whomever locks her down, because they'll know she can blow them up fairly easily, too.
One of the major drawbacks of playing Irelia is her difficulty. Although she can kill anyone easily enough, and she can time up her W to block heaps of incoming damage, the skill required to actually pull all of this off is extremely high. After playing her a few times, we can guarantee that she's very fun, but it's easy to get frustrated when you're figuring her out, especially because of how long it might take to actually do so.
Being part of the Patch 8.7 cycle, Irelia should hit live servers in two weeks.