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Irelia has low harass early game. Her main form of damage is autos, which gets outclasses by abilities early-game. Her Q commits you into a fight, which she often can't win early-game. Her E primarily a defensive tool that stops enemy melee harass/all-in cold.
When life gives you lemons, blame yourself for planting the wrong tree.
Yeah Irelia's sustain is her biggest strength so drawing out the match is in irelia's best interest. Remember that your Q does on hit effects so if you activate your W then Q it will do the true damage. Once you hit 6 and get your ult you can trade a lot more effectively and even get a kill if you were able to out sustain your opponent.
Also Irelia is one of the best champs for farming minions under tower. So letting the tower drop a minion low and then using Q you can last hit minions quite easily. Also sometimes its better to Q a low health minion near your opponent and kill it and then go after your opponent. They will try to use escapes or flash and your Q will still be up to use so you can chase.
E is a nice tool since it offers you the ability to disengage or bait enemies. But I'd avoid early game skirmishes until you get W up a few points to out-sustain your opponent. True damage is just too strong once you start fighting with a decent level W.
You like it or you don't, but i hate people saying it's 'an acquired taste." That's just a cop out. - bookwormbabe29 on beer.