Ionia, or The First Lands as some like to call the archipelago, is a place of wonders and mysteries, whose people have lived in peace for a very long time, far away from the matters that shook the rest of the world. Magic has deep roots in this living land, which is in more ways than one connected to the spirit realm. Following the precepts of major cults or orders, Ionians have learned to coexist with the eerie creatures that inhabit this place. Valuing balance above all, they strive to preserve the natural order that has reigned here for so long.
However, everything changed when
the Fire Nation Noxus attacked. In an attempt to conquer this territory so full of riches, the Empire launched a large-scale offensive on the isles. Although they managed to repel the invader’s assault, many Ionians lost their lives during this conflict. What is worse, the balance was broken and the survivors stand divided on how to handle the current situation. Some try to restore the balance, following the old ways of Ionia, whereas others search for the power to destroy their enemies at all costs to prevent a similar situation from happening ever again.
No matter the path they have chosen to follow, it is clear that Ionians, and even Lee Sin, can’t turn a blind eye on other nations’ movements anymore. Whether it is their ability to wield magic, their connection to the spirit realm, or their training as nimble warriors, they will have to make full use of their strengths to fight for their ideals in this time of divide.
Editing: ShadowplayRed, Minuano
Champions of Ionia
Ionians are no easy prey
Noxus has learned the lesson the hard way
Elusive-of skill a display
The fast and agile Ionian warriors will strike their enemies down from the shadows, only to vanish into thin air once their mission is accomplished. To reflect that idea, many units from the region come with the Elusive keyword, which prevents opponents from stopping their attacks if they don’t have Elusive cards of their own. However, nothing prevents them from blocking non-Elusive cards in return, which makes them ideal candidates to race opponents.
They are usually not very tanky though, and their two biggest weaknesses are damage-based removal and units with the Challenger keyword.
Elusive cards are strong by themselves if they are unanswered, but this will rarely be the case and you will need to take their survivability into consideration. As a wise young Ionian girl once said, “Instinct is no substitute for planning”. And indeed, there are plenty of support cards that will let you interact with your units from the safety of your hand so you can prepare them for the fights to come. They are particularly useful when combined with Elusive cards, as they will either make them harder to remove, offsetting their natural weakness, or increase their damage output, turning them into even more efficient killing machines.
As if this wasn’t enough, as Ionia, you will have many ways to mess with your opponent’s calculations and planning during fights. Combat tricks at fast and burst speed will help you protect your units, increase their offensive power, or even return them to your hand in a pinch if the situation becomes too dire.
While we are on the topic of Recall effects, it is important to note that even though they can be used to protect your units from dying, they also often result in big tempo losses and should be used carefully. Ionia doesn’t revolve solely around Elusive cards though, and you can also combine them with many other units from the region, as a lot of them have powerful Summon or Play effects, allowing you to make use of these abilities more than once.
Ionia is always hard to deal with for its opponents, because of the trickiness of its units and of its spells. Not only are the cards from the region difficult to interact with, but many among them are also designed to mess with the other player’s strategy. One example of this is cards with a Stun effect, that will prevent enemy units from attacking or blocking for a turn. These can be used offensively, buying you enough time to push for the last bit of damage you need to close out the game. But they can also be used defensively, momentarily stopping a dangerous enemy from threatening your HP while you fish for a more definitive answer to it.
Although it may not have spells that deal direct damage like P&Z does or even come close to SI’s hard removal potential, Ionia boasts some of the most powerful disruption tools in the whole game, making it a very control-oriented region. Between Recall effects that will break your opponent’s tempo when used on high-mana targets and the infamous Deny that will stop their spells and skills from resolving, Ionia has solid answers to almost any type of strategy in the game.
As a lot of its tricks and control tools revolve around spells, the region also has plenty of cards that will synergize with them. Some will help you fetch or create Spell cards, while others will become better the more of them you play. This makes Ionia a difficult region to pilot, as you will need to properly manage your Spell Mana and to plan your turns in advance to make full use of their numerous strengths.
How to play against the region
- Ionia players are particularly threatening when they keep their mana total high. Try not to spill your own too quickly if you ever feel like they are waiting for you to act, if they keep passing priority back to you for example. If you have the upper-hand early on, force them to commit with the cards you have in play, and punish them by playing your best cards once they are out of mana.
- Don’t invest too many resources on a single unit and instead, try to spread raw stats across your board. By putting all of your eggs in one basket, you take the risk to get punished by Will of Ionia, which is unironically present in every single Ionia deck
- If the opponent has 4 mana open and cards in their hand, it is wise to play around Deny, which is also unironically present in every single Ionia deck.
- Unless you are playing a very aggressive list, always have some sort of removal in your deck, whether it is spell or unit-based. Queuing against a deck that plays Elusive units without having a single way to remove or block them is a guaranteed loss for you otherwise.
While able to prove dangerously aggressive with its tricky units combined with a plethora of support cards, Ionia's biggest strength is the variety of extremely potent Tempo tools it brings to the table. The amount of micromanagement involved in playing the region has rendered it one of the most difficult to pilot (providing it is not here only as a Deny and Will of Ionia splash in your deck), but also one of the most rewarding.
Aside from delaying the inevitable, they hardly ever have a decisive way of dealing with the opposing board and they will require constant outplays to survive long enough to see their ambitions fulfilled. However, if you are willing to go the extra mile for Ionia, the payoff will often be well worth the effort.
Although some like to call him a mad scientist, Froggy is to card games what a 3-star chef is to cuisine. Representing the quintessence of French gastronomy, his decks will never leave you on an empty stomach, even though they can get a little… experimental at times. He is also a top player and he likes his opponents with a pinch of salt. To all the lactose-intolerant people out there, be careful, because his preparations often contain large amounts of cheese.