Table of Content :
-Ultimate : Begone!
-Best Team Compositions / Io Counters
-Io's effectiveness on every map
-Tips and Tricks
-Cards and Items
This guide was a staple for many builds in Season 2, and now it's updated for Season 3.
This is a full and throughout guide and - let's talk - on Io, by a golden Io player. Sure, you can just play her and figure out what works for you, but you can't read that at work while bored. I'll make this as fun and educative based on my experiences as I can - I've been playing and loving Io for all the 70 levels of grind I've poured into her.
Io has been around for a while, and has already captured hearts of many. With the unique ability to fine-tune her healing to extremely precise amounts, she is becoming a very popular pick that can rock with any team composition.
She is a versatile and a well-rounded character, bringing a little bit of everything to the table. Unlike most other supports, Io can command a very strong presence in fights, but her greatest weakness lies in being extremely team dependent.
Io's talents are : Life Link, Goddess' Blessing and Sacrifice.
Life Link : Luna now heals allies near her. The heal is small, but is persistent, and helps Io create more space for herself where her frontline isn't. A pretty staple talent, especially when paired with defensive teams. With Life Link, you have a personal bodyguard for you and any nearby allies, and this talent changes the playstyle of using Luna as your companion that goes wherever you go. However, it means you will often linger in places for too long - the trick is to make Luna fluidly move around you, and not to get stuck where you shouldn't be while you try to move around Luna's cooldown. With Life Link, you want to look for corners and environmental blocks where Luna can safely spread healing area without being a sitting duck.
Goddess' Blessing : Allies you directly heal take less damage. A very nice talent if the enemies have a lot of spam or area damage that can decimate your Luna in seconds, and a "can-never-go-wrong-with-it" type of talent. Coupled with few cards it can overbuff allies to oblivion all the while healing them, making certain impossible match ups very likely possible. This talent shines through both early and late game, due to the fact that damage reduction is always persistent (not affected by cards, items and abilities). With Goddess', you want to be greedy with your juice bar and continuously pump out heals in any fight you can reach.
Sacrifice : If you die while Luna is active, she is sacrificed, you take her place and heal. Heavily overlooked talent that isn't all that bad (who doesn't like a second chance) - the reason it's very rarely used is because the first two talents bring more direct value during the fights, even if you rock a more aggressive play-style. If you really wanna rock this, make sure to place Luna in a safe spot, and be ready to run if she goes down. You're all about being alive with this talent, otherwise, why'd you rock it? Another thing to keep in mind is that when Sacrifice triggers, you DO get your Luna off-cooldown, so you can redeploy her to fight that Maeve that's been camping your Luna for a full minute now.
Io's default healing isn't strong, but is reliable. You can almost instantly react to allies needing help around you and quickly swap in between them, effectively being in two or three fights at once. Since you don't work with a cooldown but with a resource bar ("juice"), burning through it to pocket a tank leaves you without any healing options for the rest of your team. With that being said, Io's default meter sucks some moon balls. It's essential to run a choice of cards that grant more Moonlight, tailored to fit your playstyle. Her healing lingers for a little while after target exits your line of sight, making her good at hugging corners and peeking to heal or land shots, where she can quickly slip away if flanked.
Luna is a nice companion that, while very often used as "What you leave on point so your team can push and zone enemies back", it's use is only limited by player's creativity. You can place Luna on a suspicious flank as a warning to whoever might be coming. Early game especially, Luna really is another character with persistent auto-attack and a whooping hp bar, making a game 6v5 up-front. Remember that you can see your Luna's hit points near your character portrait, and don't ever leave her to die or sit idle forgotten half-way through a push.
Always keep Luna around you, as you can land stuns on overextended enemies or flanks. The stun will go through many obstacles (It stuns enemies out of shields (Nando, Khan), Luna can pass through most deployables (Ying's Illusions, Inara's Wall), and it ignores cripples and roots ((Tyra's Fire, Imani's Volleyball)). It really is a nice stun that allows you to either set-up for an ultimate, run away, get a few shots or save an ally. Oh the choices!
On a side note, while Luna can capture, she generates no credits nor objective time for you.
Last but not least, we have her leap. It's your best ally and your worst nightmare. If you happen to decide to play a lot of Io, you will start to hate tight maps like Brightmarsh - what a nice little jump OOF, you've hit that aqueduct. You going nowhere yo. Or remember that time when you've yeeted yourself off the map on Frog Isle? Or that one when you've almost got a triple kill but your jump got stopped on an environmental rock, size of Barik? Learn to never panic-press the jump. It's cooldown is too long to be used as a lucky bail-me-out card, and it's not reliable nor it grants any invulnerability. Learn to look around you, and THEN jump. First say hop, right?
Ultimate : Begone!
Io plays grew as time passed by and players started maximizing her potential. Nowadays, I've lost count of how many players who dared to flank me I've yeeted off the map, to their shame. With good positioning, having your ultimate almost guarantees you will survive an encounter and get away with a cheeky kill. Do keep in mind that you're CC and damage immune while you wind-up your ult. Begone! is not an ability you use out of desperation to try to push away that Skye who's on your ass for the seventh time this round (unless she's suspiciously close to an edge) - think of it more as a more precise Torvald ultimate. Moreover, due to the speed of it and it's wonky hitbox, it's best used at close range, meaning Io can counter a LOT of frontline ultimate plays. You can push Ash off her ultimate field, dodge Inara's spear and push her off from your team, or fully immunize yourself against a Terminus explosion and send him off to another realm. The last one is the most satisfying one, trust me. Double points if you proceed to get a kill while countering them.
-Best team compositions / Worst counterpicks:
Io works best in team compositions where she has advantage of free middle ground. If her team is able to maintain line of sight on her, she can be present in all fights at once very effectively, all the while capturing the point. Therefore, Io's positioning should be as central while as safe as possible.
Io fits in with any team composition, duo-tank or single tank, and she also works wonders with double support comp (Jenos + Io and Grohk + Io work really well together).
Her best team composition is two off-tanks, herself as support and two free characters, best if both damage to be nearer to her, as Io usually has no problems with flanks as long as she has an ally nearby to pocket.
Io's worst nightmare is the Blue Orc, as his chain lightnings eat through Luna's hit points and force you in a position where entire team needs healing at once, and that's Io's weakness. To counterplay your counterplay, make Luna bodyguard unsafe flanks instead of being in his sight. That way, she still gives value while not frying your team for being a sitting duck. Also, placing Luna just around corners can still contest payloads while making her out of sight for chain lightnings.
With that being said, going against Deep Root Grover you should in 90% of time rock Goddess - having Luna in tree's sight guarantees free root chains.
Io's other counter is Zhin. He can follow you through any distance you cover with leap, and he has two immunity abilities that let him reset or resist Luna's stuns. In most 1v1 scenarios, Zhin wins, even if Io player tries to dance around Luna and pump her bow. The only times Io wins is if she can spot him before he's too near.
New to season changes, her new problem is now also Koga, as she can no longer outrun him even with perfect leaps.
To do what you can best against good counters, hug your damage characters better and pump them with heals so that they win fights for you. You're a healer, it's no shame to ask for help with problematic characters, because if your ass is dead your team isn't getting any support.
-Io's effectiveness on every map
Arguably, Splitstone Quarry is Io's best map. You have not one but two environmental hazards to send enemies into with an ultimate (tho for some reason, sending them in blades does not credit the kill to you). You got multiple layers of height that don't really benefit Io's healing too much, but make you very hard to flank. Last but not least, there's a lot of obstacles all around the map which you can use to safely peek with heals and shots.
To play a good Io, you are somewhat map reliant. You need three things from every map:
1) Rocks, shrubs, pillars and corners galore
2) Environmental hazards or map edges
3) Multi-layered height differences
3 Points Maps (Excellent) : Serpent Beach, Fish Market, Stone Keep, Splitstone Quarry
2 Points Maps (Okay) : Frog Isle (1+2), Jaguar Falls (1+2), Frozen Guard (1+2), Ice Mines (2+3), Brightmarsh (1+2), Ascension Peak (2+3), Warder's Gate (2+3)
1 Point Maps (Hell no) : Timber Mills (has only one clear off-map shot next to spawn, very little to no hiding spots), Bazaar (no environmental hazards, very awkward height difference with an absurd amount of pillars), Shattered Desert (incredibly clear and long sightlines, very limited ultimate plays options).
-Niche tips and tricks:
-Luna is immune to damage while switching places, but can still be healed.
-You can utilize a wall jump (jump by the wall to gain extra height) + leap to reach otherwise unreachable platforms.
-To aim Begone!, don't aim at the character - aim towards the skies / slightly up from the edge you want them off from, and Luna will pick them up on her way. Otherwise, you risk them hitting something.
-Be careful when using ultimate on hyper-mobility champions as they might be able to get back on ground (Evie, Androxus, Maeve).
-You can utilize Goddess' damage reduction on full hp targets to block a large chunk of damage against snipers.
-To securely land a stun with Luna, mark an enemy and THEN re-position her near the enemy. Otherwise, you risk stun going on cooldown against targets you didn't really need to stun.
Cards and Items:
These are suggested loads for first two of her talents that you can base your builds around, and then fine-tune them to your play-style. There's no direct builds for Sacrifice, as either of the two main builds (or combination of both) works for it.
With that being said and considering the total time you will be spending healing allies with Moonlight, I strongly suggest to keep Swift Arrows on either IV or V - it's a very powerful card that sure is a lifesaver and is really felt all throughout the game; and have Restored Faith anywhere between I and III for self-sustain (I personally think anything over III is countered very heavily by Cauterize, so the points went in other cards that have no direct outplay). This also procs per healing TICK, not per second channeled. Moonlight healing ticks every 0.15 seconds.
Increase allies' Movement Speed by 32% while they are being Healed by Moonlight.
Regenerate 8% Moonlight every 1s while within 30 units of Luna.
Reduce the Cooldown of Luna's redeploy by 0.30000000000000004s after healing with Moonlight.
Heal for 20 every time you Heal an ally with Moonlight.
Increase Luna's deploy range by 40%.
As Luna gains a healing aura, Life Link build revolves more around personal survival and improving all your abilities. Spirit Arrows III allow you to constantly reposition Luna around (jt triggers per moonlight healing tick, so it actually triggers 6-7 times per second), doubling her as a second healing ability. More utility and healing pool is always a good choice of cards.
This build suits defensive teams who can protect you and Luna.
Increase allies' Movement Speed by 32% while they are being Healed by Moonlight.
Reset the Cooldown of Lunar Leap after dropping to or below 45% Health.
Heal for 30 every time you Heal an ally with Moonlight.
Generate 6% Moonlight for each enemy hit with Light Bow.
Increase your Moonlight’s capacity by 12%.
With Goddess' Blessing, we need more up-time on Moonlight and a way to generate if faster once we run out of juice, hence Moonlight Garden III (it triggers even on shields and deployables). Learning to weave in attacks in between heals almost guarantees you'll always have at least 50% of bar. With this build, we also don't need to move Luna around too much, she can help with point captures, babysitting your backline from flanks or just guarding a certain area. We also have speed buff again, a small juice bar buff, a little bit of self-sustain, and a reliable reset once we get to half of hit points.
This build suits a more aggressive team and play-style.
As much as they are personal preferences, these are key items to keep in mind come to Io's play-style.
Gain 21% Movement Speed.
Increase your Mount Speed by 45%.
Kill to Heal
Getting a kill or elimination heals you for 900 Health.
Reduce the duration and effectiveness of Crowd Control and Slows by 60%.
Reduce the Damage you take from Area of Effect attacks by 21%.
Reduce the Damage you take from Direct attacks by 21%.
Your weapon attacks deal 60% increased Damage to Shields.
Nimble allows you to maneuver around fights, either to catch up to allies you're buffing to oblivion (32/40% movement via Swift Arrows), or for quick dance-peeking around corners so you maintain heals on allies without being exposed for too long. You can also finish it before round 1 ends.
Master Riding is a logical choice as you can capture with luna and retreat to safety if that's needed for your team to gain upper-hand.
Kill to heal is a good choice with recent changes, and playing well with Io will reward you with heals.
Haven, Blast Shields and Resilience should be picked up if certain enemies give you more trouble than you're comfortable with.
Wrecker is very often overlooked with Io - but with Io's very fast attack speed, you can quickly eat shields to land a stun with Luna if necessary.
Reduce the Cooldown of all your abilities by 30%.
Increase your Reload Speed by 60%.
Chronos does not benefit Io too much - chances are if you get caught off-guard, 3 seconds off your Leap isn't doing you any justice; neither it helps Moonlight's resource bar in any way. You are much better off grabbing another item from the list above.
Deft Hands also shares the same reasoning - there are other items that give Io much more value, and considering she already has a rather fast reload animation, it's just not needed (even if you rock Garden in your cards).