Legends of Runeterra: Ionia Region Guide
So you fancy yourself a clever and cunning player, staying ahead of your opponent with sneaky units and spells that deny advantages. Ionia is the right place for you! In this guide, we’ll cover the champions of Ionia, its signature mechanics, as well as the synergies it has with other regions.
By the end of this article, our goal is that you’ll really understand Ionia as a region and be able to create your own decks with our Legends of Runeterra deck builder. Check out our other articles that explore Bilgewater, Demacia, Freljord, Noxus, Piltover & Zaun, Shadow Isles, and Targon.
“Ionia, in original Vastayan nomenclature: The First Lands, is a land of unspoiled beauty and natural magic. Its inhabitants, living in scattered settlements across this massive archipelago, are a spiritual people who seek to live in harmony and balance with the world. There are many orders and sects across Ionia, each following their own (often conflicting) paths and ideals. Self-sufficient and isolationist, Ionia has remained largely neutral in the wars that have ravaged Valoran over the centuries – until it was invaded by Noxus. This brutal conflict and occupation has forced Ionia to reassess its place in the world. How it reacts and the future path Ionia will follow is as of yet undetermined, however, animosity against Noxus has led to militarization and vigilantism. Thirst for the dark arts is on the rise.” – from Universe.
Ionian is home to many different beliefs and spiritual faiths. As such, in LoR the region has many different types of decks you can focus on. You can choose stealth and subterfuge with Ephemeral, control and mobility with Recall & Sun, or even ramp and scaling with Enlightenment.
Ionia is an isolationist nation. Cards that allow them to overwhelm or deal direct damage to their opponents are rare. They focus on ways to avoid direct conflict with other followers by using stuns, recalls, and elusive. It also means they have many ways to defend and protect themselves. With effects like barrier, recalling their own allies to protect them, and a few healing effects, you will never be lacking for clever tools.
Update for the Call of the Mountain Expansion
In Call of the Mountain, the second LoR expansion, Lulu, along with twelve other cards, joined the Ionia region.
To learn more about Lulu specifically, check out our Lulu impressions article!
The primary theme of the Ionian Call of the Mountain cards is a ton of additions to the Support archetype.
This had always been a concept for the region because of Shen, who Supports his allies by providing Barriers.
Now, you’ll have some more options to strengthen this archetype with cards like Pix!, Young Witch, and Fuzzy Caretaker.
Note that these cards are very cheaply costed – Lulu’s Support archetype helps facilitate more aggressive decks than Shen-style decks.
Deck code: CECAIAIABEFRKHIDAEBASEIWAMBQEAQKCEBAEAAIBIBACAYCAMAQCABFAA
With the help of Zed, Lulu and her Support allies are able to overwhelm opponents with a flurry of momentum with low-costed units that can grow with the help of Support abilities.
You can often set up for a mid-game lethal after building up your board in the early game and swinging twice with the Rally provided by Relentless Pursuit.
Give it a shot if you enjoy making decisions that revolve around strategically placing your units on the board and choosing which to buff.
Update for the Rising Tides Expansion
The first Legends of Runeterra expansion, the Rising Tides, brought ten new Ionia cards including one champion, Lee Sin.
Overall, Ionia is receiving a big injection of tools for their spell-slinging theme. The new cards incentivize new combo strategies where you plan ahead to chain together cards for big payoffs.
For example, if you’re able to play at least two spells during a round, cards like Claws of the Dragon, Eye of the Dragon, and Deep Meditation will provide big value swings.
A new keyword, Attune, is coming to this expansion. Ionia has the only card, Eye of the Dragon, that has the keyword outside of Bilgewater.
Summoning an Attune unit will grant you 1 refilled spell mana, granting you more flexibility in comboing your spells.
Lee Sin, the newest Ionian champion coming to LoR, also plays into this spellcasting theme.
Each round, the first time you cast a spell, Lee Sin will gain the Challenger keyword. The second time you cast a spell that round, he’ll gain Barrier.
This combination is of course very potent because it allows you to selectively remove enemies from the board while reducing the risk of losing one of your own in exchange.
On top of this, Lee Sin levels up after you cast 7+ spells, which is a very easy condition if you build your deck correctly.
Once he levels up, if Lee Sin challenges an enemy unit, he will strike both the unit and the enemy Nexus.
If the enemy unit survives, they’ll be Recalled, so either way, you’ll get a ton of value.
Lee Sin’s deck archetype pairs incredibly well with Twisted Fate from Bilgewater as TF represents the spellcasting portion of the new region.
If you want to try this champ combination out, check out this decklist by M0gwai.
Deck code: CEBQEAICG44QGAQCAEBQSBACAYARUKZQAMAQEBR5AIBAEBIGAMAQEAQXGEAQCAQGDU
The deck list only uses 11 followers opting for 24 spells which include a ton of card draw, buffs, and some classic Ionian denial with Will of Ionia and Deny.
You either create a huge Twisted Fate which generates a ton of value with his Destiny cards or you have Lee Sin Dragon Rage your opponents to death. Try it out!
General Ionia Overview
The following sections were created at the time of the core set’s launch and are meant for newer players learning about how generally Ionia works.
Be sure to check our meta report if you’re looking for the best Ionia decks.
Mechanics and Playstyle
Outsmart your Enemies
As an Ionian, you’ll be using creative tactics to defeat your opponent rather than outright destroying them with might and power.
Recall and Stun
This is reflected in their Recall and Stun mechanics which are used to manipulate the flow of battle to your favor.
Recall allows you to return a unit to their owners hand (similar to Rogue’s playstyle in Hearthstone).
It’s is a key mechanic that can be used offensively or defensively in Ionia’s gameplan. Ionia has a lot of units that trigger effects when they are summoned like Windfarer Hatchling. Recall lets you get repeated value out of those effects.
Cards like Minah Swiftfoot can Recall multiple enemies so that you can have some time to push through damage before they can replay their cards.
If you’re able to think and plan ahead, Recall is incredibly flexible and can be useful in many situations from buffing and protecting to disrupting and deceiving.
Stun is another flexible mechanic at Ionia’s disposal that can be used in a number of ways. Stunned units cannot block or attack and are removed from combat.
This makes it useful for stalling against opponents when you’re waiting for a key round to really go off. It’s also good for temporarily removing followers from combat for a turn while you look to push through damage.
Ionia has a few strong payoff cards for stunning units. Namely Fae Bladetwirler and Yasuo (see the champion section below).
Strike from the Shadows
If you’re familiar with League of Legends lore, you’ll know that Ionia is a land of ninjas. To play into this theme of stealth and assassination, they have Ephemeral units that can appear, strike, and then disappear at the end of a round.
An example of Ionia’s use of Ephemeral, is using a simple Shadow Fiend combined with Death Mark to create a cheap strong follower while removing a bigger expensive unit at the same time.
Zed’s core mechanics revolve around Ephemeral, we’ll talk about that more in his champion section later on.
Sidestep and Nullify Danger
As a society that strives to live in harmony and cooperation, Ionian spells and units have numerous ways to protect themselves and their allies from harm.
In Legends of Runeterra, Elusive units are able to ignore blockers that aren’t Elusive themselves (this is similar to Flying in Magic the Gathering).
Ionia doesn’t have the strongest units or ways to deal damage directly to the Nexus so using this mechanic Elusive their primary method of easily getting through with damage.
Other regions don’t have as many Elusives and if they do, they’re much fewer than what Ionia has at their disposal. So against most matchups you’ll be able to get a few swings in uncontested unless they’re able to use AoE removal like Freljord’s Avalanche or Vengeance from Shadow Isles.
With the power of nature and magic on their side, Ionia also has access to Lifesteal, which allows units to heal themselves based on the amount of damage they deal. Kinkou Lifeblade combines this mechanic with Elusive while Herald of Spring uses the Support mechanic to bestow Lifesteal on another ally.
Support provides a benefit to the ally attacking to the unit’s right, so positioning is important.
There aren’t many Lifesteal cards in the game but Ionia is home to most of them. Because Ionia does not have a lot of hard removal, lifesteal and other healing effects give Ionia staying power when they fall behind.
The third way Ionians are able to avoid danger is by using the Barrier mechanic, which allows a unit to ignore damage one time during a round (very similar to Divine Shield from Hearthstone)
Spells like Ki Guardian allow you to instantly give it to an ally with Burst speed, while cards like Greenglade Caretaker gain other benefits when another ally is receiving Barrier.
Deny: The Only Counterspell in LoR
This last aspect of this section isn’t a mechanic but focuses on one card because it’s truly unique in Legends of Runeterra. Deny is a 3-cost Fast spell that allows you to stop a Slow spell, Fast spell, or skill.
On release, this is the only counterspell mechanic in the game, so if you enjoy that aspect of gameplay from TCG’s like Magic the Gathering, Ionia may be your thing.
Fast Spells can be used before, during, and after combat, so it can really ruin your opponent’s day or be used as an insurance measure to protect your own plans from disruption
Ionia is a land of mysticism and the Enlightened ability helps you tap into that. This keyword grants special bonuses if they’re played when you have 10 mana crystals unlocked.
Enlightened gives Ionia the ability to be flexible by playing cards that are average in the early game but become amazingly cost-efficient late game.
In this section, we’ll discuss the Ionian champions in order from lowest mana cost to highest (Lulu and Lee Sin were covered at the beginning of the article).
If you’re unfamiliar with how champions work, check out our LoR mechanics guide.
The TL: DR is:
- Every deck can have up to 6 total champions, only 3 of the same kind.
- Champions fulfill conditions to level up.
- When they level up, they become stronger and gain new abilities. Leveling up causes all copies to level up.
- Only one copy of a specific champion can be on the board at once. If you draw other copies while a champion is on the board, they will transform into a spell form until that champion is removed. Playing the spell will shuffle the champion back into your deck instead of going to the graveyard.
Zed is a powerful low-cost unit that allows Ionia to strike swiftly and aggressively. He starts off as a 3-cost 3|2 unit with Quick Attack and the ability, “Attack: Create an attacking Living Shadow with my stats”.
If you’re unfamiliar with Quick Attack, the mechanic causes an attacker’s damage to resolve before the defender. So if Zed attacks and a 2|2 blocks, the 2|2 will die and Zed will survive.
This allows Zed to apply a ton of pressure in the early game since he’s difficult to remove through combat and since he creates an Ephemeral 3|2 Living Shadow that can also swing at face or trade with your opponent’s permanent units.
To level up, Zed and his Living Shadows only need to hit the Nexus at least twice, so it isn’t the most difficult thing to do unless you’re playing Zed in later rounds when blockers are big enough to avoid his Quick Attack.
Zed Leveled Up
Once he levels up, Zed gains access to scary abilities that make him capable of ridiculous amounts of damage. Because his shadow copies his stats and keywords, you can use cards like Twin Disciplines to attack with two 7/3 units.
Since Zed maintains his Quick Attack when leveled up, he can safely break through much bigger blockers and pave the wave for his shadow and other allies to finish the job.
Zed’s Champion Spell
Zed’s champion spell is Shadowshift, which appear if you draw a Zed when he’s already on the board.
If you draw multiple Zeds, you can activate Shadowshift to protect him from removal and combat tricks while shuffling another Zed back into your deck to draw again later.
Yasuo is a very one dimensional but powerful card. He only really excels when in a deck with a surplus of Recall and Stun so he can reliably level up, so be sure to build around that.
His base form is a 4-cost 4|3 with the ability, “When you Stun or Recall an enemy, I deal 2 to it.” Like Zed, he also has Quick Attack at his Disposal.
This makes Yasuo a potent unit as you enter the mid game since he can trade with Quick Attack and remove any small threats that you’re stunning.
Yasuo Leveled Up
Once Yasuo is leveled up he can easily carry the rest of the game since each Stun and Recall card will be doing 5 or more damage (if you buffed Yasuo).
This combos with cards like Yone, Windchaser into back-breaking 2 for 1s that give you huge tempo swings and allow you to take a dominant position in your match.
Yasuo’s Champion Spell
Yasuo’s champion spell is pretty straightforward, it just helps you level up Yasuo or help him strike enemies if he’s in his final form.
As a Fast spell, remember that you can use this during combat to get the edge in a trade.
Karma is a champion for Ionian players who like to play the long game. She starts off as a 6-cost 4|3 with the effect, “End of Round: Create a random spell in hand”.
This means that if you can protect her, she can give you continual value and increase the amount of options you have versus your opponent. Be sure to have effects like Barrier and Recall to protect her from removal since 3 Health is quite low for a 6 drop.
Karma Leveled Up
To level up, you fittingly need to become Enlightened by having 10 mana crystals. This is when the fun really begins.
When Karma is Enlightened, she automatically casts a free copy of each spell you play on the same target. Games end pretty quickly when you get double value out of each spell, so each round that Karma stays alive, the closer to death your opponent becomes.
Karma Champion Spell
Her champion spell isn’t amazing on its own before Karma levels up but it starts creating dominant card advantage when you become Enlightened.
Since Burst spells can be cast at any time (before, during, and after combat) and allow you to act after casting them, you can often get insane value in a single turn (especially if you generate more Burst spells).
Like his League of Legends form, Shen is a beefy champion that is amazing at protecting his allies.
He starts off as a 4-cost 2|5 with the ability, “Support: Give my supported ally Barrier.”, which protects the attacker to his right from damage when Shen attacks during a round.
At 5 Health, it’s incredibly hard to remove Shen without spells so he’s a great addition to give even more protection to Elusives and other units when you’re taking the offensive.
Shen Leveled Up
To level up, Shen needs to see at least 4 allies receive Barrier. The key thing to note here is that “see” requires the champion to be on the field in order to fulfill the condition. It will not count if Shen is in hand or in your deck.
Shen’s leveled up form upgrades him to a 3|6 and gives his Supported ally an additional +3 Power on top of their Barrier for the round. This makes it near impossible to lose combat trades and will give you additional oomph to help your Ionian units that usually have relatively weaker power, destroy the enemy Nexus.
Shen’s Champion Spell
Shen’s spell, although expensive, is incredibly powerful during combat since you can effectively protect two allies from a situation they would have otherwise died in.
If you haven’t leveled up Shen yet, it’ll count as 2 Barriers to bring you closer to fulfilling the condition.
Synergies with Other Factions
In Legends of Runeterra there are many, many synergies to take advantage of by strategically pairing with other regions. In this section, we’ll be discussing a few of them for Noxus but there are definitely way more.
Use our Deck Builder to experiment and let us know in the comment section below what you think would work!
Shadow Isles (Zed + Hecarim)
Ionia and Shadow Isles are home to ALL the Ephemeral cards in the game, so combining them really opens up your possibilities for using the effect in creative ways.
For example, Shadow Isles’s Soul Shepherd can increase the value and pressure of your Ephemeral units, such as Zed’s Living Shadows.
In terms of champion pairing, Hecarim is the perfect match for a Zed Ephemeral deck since Zed’s Living Shadow’s can help Hecarim level up, and Hecarim can give even more buffs to Ephemeral units.
Once Hecarim is online you can easily fill the board with throw-away ephemeral units each turn for massive damage that can easily OTK (0 to death) from full health.
Noxus (Yasuo + Katarina)
When combined, Ionia and Noxus have numerous ways to Recall and Stun units. They use this in conjunction with units and spells, such as Decisive Maneuver and Intimidating Roar, that gain special bonuses based on these mechanics to outmaneuver and destroy their opponents.
Noxus looks to supplement Ionia with a plethora of stunning cards and Katarina who is champion that can continually Recall to trigger effects.
This makes Yasuo much easier to level up, and when he is, you can really apply the pressure since Strikes the enemies you use the rest of your Stuns and Recalls on.. This helps clear the field for Katarina and other Noxus threats to push through and hit the enemy Nexus.
Demacia (Shen + Fiora)
Demacia works with Ionia through synergy with their Barrier effects involving cards like Brightsteel Protector and Prismatic Barrier.
With the high number of protective cards at this combination’s disposal, you can use risky and high payoff cards like Fiora with more confidence that they can survive. This is especially exemplified when you realize how well Shen works with her.
The turn after Fiora is played, Shen can be a continual source of protection for Fiora granting her Barrier every time she attacks while Fiora Challenges the correct unit to keep Shen safe from taking hits.
If your opponent doesn’t have the right answers, you’re 4 unit kills away from winning through Fiora’s Level Up ability.
Piltover & Zaun (Zed + Ezreal)
Ionia and Piltover & Zaun use their high density of aggressive Elusive units like Amateur Aeronaut to aggressively push through enemy lines with unblockable damage.
With Stuns and Recall effects covering your Elusive units, you can make it very difficult for an opponent to defend themselves. Meanwhile, Ezreal can provide you with some extra oomph in the mid to late game with direct damage from his Mystic Shots and level up ability.
Freljord (Karma + Anivia)
Ionia works with Freljord by combining the Enlightened mechanic with Freljord’s ramp that allow you to cheat the mana system and get ahead of the curve with Wydring Stones and Catalyst of Aeons.
The goal is to unlock 10 mana gems as fast as possible so that you can drown your opponent in value from Karma and other Enlightened cards.
Meanwhile, Anivia can maintain a sticky and consistent pressure and AoE removal to pave the way from the mid game to the late game where Karma spells can take over.
We hope you enjoyed our deep dive on Ionia! Check out our other articles that explore Bilgewater, Demacia, Freljord, Noxus, Piltover & Zaun, Shadow Isles, and Targon. LoR is a brand new game and we’re still figuring it out ourselves, so if you have any suggestions for decks or other feedback, let us know in the comment section below.
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