Shen Build Guide by A2ZOMG
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Standard Support Build
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Shen is a controversial champion known for his sustain and global ultimate, which have often made him a pick or ban champion back when he was statistically stronger. With the release of stronger duelists and faster split pushers, Shen has fallen out of favor as a solo laner given there are many matchups he has little hope of winning without massive assistance. As a jungler he also isn't preferable due to his inability to farm it quickly.
This doesn't mean he's weak as a whole however. The changes to items and gold income in my opinion significantly increase the viability of Shen as a support, especially given the increased tendency for games to last longer in this season. Duo laning is overall more versatile for Shen given his inherently supportive kit, which can shine in many situations at all points of the game, and should the game last long enough Shen's durability scaling and global presence makes him one of the stronger lategame supports available.
I'm currently a Platinum ranked Top lane/Support main on NA servers. I don't claim to be amazing at this game, but I like experimenting with somewhat unconventional things. I've generally had considerably more success with Shen as a support than as a top laner, which I feel overall makes better use of Shen's kit and build options given as a support, you no longer need to focus on building your own damage to be effective in lane.
Pros / Cons
- Extremely good at initiating and peeling
- Health scaling synergizes very well with Relic Shield
- Good ranged poke
- Very hard to kill due to escape and defense steroids
- Ultimate can save a life anywhere, which is good for counter ganking, protecting squishy teammates, and even amplifying initiations.
- Poke has relatively short range, and you can be kited if you overcommit.
- Sustaining your carry can potentially push your lane
- Shen does significantly less damage than other supports earlygame, so your burst combos are not as likely to kill people earlygame.
- Shen is a moderately level dependent champion. All of his abilities, while useful at all points of the game, are noticeably more effective at later ranks, and duo laning will slow down your experience gains early on. However it is not too hard to catch up in EXP midgame by jungle farming or split pushing.
Reasons why this is preferable to top lane Shen?
- Shen can be counterpicked top lane by champions like ChoGath, Olaf, Aatrox, Shyvana and many ranged champions
- Everyone expects Shen to be played top lane, and people who know how to counterpick Shen will do so.
- Shen's kit is by default strongest when assisting an ally who can take advantage of both his healing and crowd control. You will not be less effective, but rather more efficient earlygame by playing as support Shen.
- Shen is versatile when duo laning and is not countered specifically by any popular bot lane compositions. Shen can viably sustain losing lanes, and viably harass winning ones at any time. He also amplifies jungler ganks incredibly well.
- Top lane Shen is required to build selfish damage items of some sort to not be useless in lane. Your build options and usage is overall superior as a support, where you can focus more strictly on building much more desirable Health and Utility items without being a liability against stronger pushers.
And don't Jungle Shen, please. It takes too long for Shen to gain levels reasonably in the jungle especially if you get counter jungled. Shen always has to lane.
Support Shen is also a good pick when:
- The other lane is very hard engage oriented. Shen is a very safe laner that can successfully poke other hard engage lanes while being very difficult to all-in.
- You have one or more solo champions that scales well into lategame but is likely to be bullied and tower dived midgame.
- You do not know what AD carry your team wants to play or what your opposing matchup will be, as Shen can viably adapt to the needs of pretty much any bot lane.
- Your AD carry is extremely strong, but very vulnerable to being dived especially by suppression ultimates. You are an amazing counter to Warwick lategame for instance, but you are not necessarily the best champion for laning against him.
- Your jungler is capable of doing extremely high damage. Jungle Kha'Zix ganks can be heavily teammate reliant for instance, as he lacks tools to lock down targets, but can demolish stationary targets if for instance as Shen you are able to initiate fights for him.
- Your entire team in general is squishy, or lacks good initiation, and needs a tank. Shen is always a good choice when you need a tank. Support Shen for example can work quite well on double AP comps due to being a durability scaling champion that can reliably protect or help initiate for squishier teammates. Shen also compliments popular assassin based comps very well given his ability to assist dives incredibly strongly when paired with other mobile, high damage teammates who he can put his ultimate on. And of course for dedicated protection comps, Shen is also a great support who is able to make a key teammate much harder to kill from anywhere on the map.
Greater Seal of Scaling Health
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Greater Quintessence of Armor
Greater Seal of Scaling Health
Greater Seal of Scaling Energy Regeneration
Greater Seal of Scaling Armor
Greater Seal of Armor
Greater Quintessence of Armor
Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed
Greater Quintessence of Health
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power
Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
Greater Mark of Armor
Greater Mark of Precision
Greater Mark of Scaling Health
For an example of another viable rune setup on Shen that I run frequently with the goal of lategame utility, you can for instance run this combination of runes:
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist
Greater Mark of Armor
Greater Seal of Scaling Energy Regeneration
Greater Quintessence of Armor
Block is the most important first tier defense mastery to take. 2 damage reduction against autoattacks is simply really big for being tankier against autoattack harass. Furthermore, this mastery is a prerequisite for the Unyielding mastery as well, which adds up only more for mitigating poke damage.
Recovery is taken because it's simply better than Enchanted Armor. Support Shen isn't very likely to stack a lot of resistances except in cases where the enemy team only has a single damage type. Enchanted armor at any rate doesn't do much for you earlygame anyway, while 2HP/5 instead essentially can let you survive an extra autoattack every 2 minutes during the laning phase.
Given you are not jungling, you have no need for Tough Skin and its upgrade likewise.
> > > > > >
We invest 17 points in defense to get a single point in Legendary Guardian, which is an extremely cost efficient mastery. For one point during the laning phase, you get 2 armor and 1 MR, and lategame in a full teamfight this is equal to 5 armor and 2.5 MR. It may sound small, but at the same time it's a lot more than virtually any other single mastery point. In comparison, 3 points in Hardiness or Resistance only get you 5 points in either Armor or MR. Armor is usually preferred over MR given it helps you tank autoattack damage, which helps you trade hits against range ADs.
Perseverance is another good laning mastery for tank champions. The extra sustain you get while low on health is highly significant. Assuming you are missing 300 HP, this mastery becomes at least as efficient per point as Recovery . Especially after building a larger health pool, the effective amount of regeneration you get from this mastery becomes really significant.
Swiftness, Evasive, and Reinforced Armor are all situational masteries that can be very powerful in the right situations. If the other team has a large number of slows, Swiftness is obviously noticeable. Evasive is EXTREMELY cost efficient if you're against a lot of AOE magic damage, which for instance could be an issue in a Zyra or Corki lane. Reinforced Armor is probably the worst of these masteries given you are unlikely to deal with crits earlygame. It is strong lategame against autoattack champions, and maybe it might help against a Shaco gank? Otherwise it's not that useful.
The choices in utility are fairly limited given Shen is a manaless support. There is however one mastery above all that you really want and can acquire with 13 points.
This mastery gives you a lot of important earlygame safety. The extra starting gold lets you start with 2 potions and a ward as well as a gold item, which overall gives you the best laning phase. If you're really greedy, you could theoretically run Scavenger for slightly more gold income over time. This isn't nearly as good on Shen as other supports though, given not only are you a Relic Shield user who inherently takes some last hits in lane, midgame you will often be assisting your team by pressuring lanes through holding or split pushing lanes while your ultimate is up. Inspiration similarly is not very good on Shen especially given one of your biggest advantages as a support is being able to spend free time jungling or split pushing to get an EXP advantage during the midgame.
Given Shen is a low damage support that also happens to be manaless, these masteries overall don't add up very much on him. Obviously, you also don't even have an actual use for Meditation and Strength of Spirit . With that in perspective, logically you put the rest of your mastery points into everything else that is available.
Exhaust is a powerful summoner that can be used multiple ways fundamentally. Exhaust cripples damage dealers, and acts as additional CC. You can use this to engage on an enemy that is out of position, or to peel. Just make sure as Shen to avoid using your Exhaust on targets that are already CCed by your taunt.
Flash is important on Support Shen primarily for initiation purposes. Your Dash has somewhat short range, and especially during ganks, Flash can enable you to close the gap much more reliably. Specifically, you can increase the reliability of a taunt initiation by Flashing DURING your Taunt to effectively extend the distance it covers instantly. This type of mechanic applies to all dash abilities, as you can see in this video.
This is the other reliably useful summoner to take on Shen as well. Shen is a defensive sustain oriented support, and having this summoner earlygame is a nice way to ensure you and your lane partner have enough sustain to come out ahead in long exchanges, and the short movement speed boost also can be used to engage or disengage. There is only a minor problem to ensure you do not accidentally use this summoner in a way that hinders a range AD that also chooses to run this summoner, given it is less effective if stacked in a short period. However this summoner also simultaneously has really strong synergy with your ultimate as a way to provide extra durability to whoever you are assisting. If your range AD takes Barrier instead of Heal, I would definitely recommend Heal over Exhaust on Shen.
This is a summoner for killing squishy supports during the laning phase or if you absolutely need a heal debuff for Warwick or Dr. Mundo. Shen's all-in overall however is relatively poor due to his lack of stick power and damage, making it overall more practical to pick things that amplify his defensive utility.
This is a better lategame spell on Shen assuming you have a full item build, as this overall offers you the most chase and initiation potential. However on a budget build, this isn't quite as useful.
Skills and Skill Sequence
This is your passive, and basically it gives you free damage on autoattacks. Because it is magic damage, it does not help you proc Relic Shield charges. However, it gives you some good trade power against melees and burst damage in engages, especially after building health items. The energy regain is also hugely significant, and during heated engages can make or break optimal skill usage.
Your Q is your main damage ability, and it serves as both a poke and a sustain tool scaling with your health pool. You can heal your teammates by Qing an enemy unit and having them attack the marked target. This ability can be used on minions, champions, and jungle monsters. The ideal way to win an exchange obviously is to Q an enemy champion and have your AD attack them a few times which not only supplements your poke damage, but gives them sustain for doing so. Another notable use for your Q is tanking Dragon with teammates. Shen is by far one of the strongest supports in the game for securing early Dragons if for any reason the enemy team is unable to contest, so you should be relatively aggressive in encouraging your team to force Dragon opportunities when applicable.
Your W gives you a shield, and when you autoattack enemies while your shield is up, you also reduce the cooldown of your Ki Strike passive by 2 seconds instead of 1 second (this also works when actually attacking with Ki strike, making the base cooldown 8 seconds instead of 9). This ability is useful for safely getting in range to poke with your Q during the laning phase, and generally making you harder to kill. Be careful spamming it though if you need to escape.
This is your primary playmaking ability. This serves as both an initiation tool being a potential 1.5 second AOE disable, or as an escape. Having an escape during the laning phase is very valuable against hard engage lanes, and combined with Shen's sustain makes him a very safe laner. Mind the energy cost though. Especially if you miss your Taunt offensively, you will be very low on energy afterwards.
One of the main reasons to play Shen. Global presence is a rare thing in this game. Acquiring this ultimate gives you amazing countergank potential and also enables you to take some time off to solo farm unlike other supports. You can also use this in an emergency to get back to lane faster as well.
Normally after that, it is safer to max your W second, given it increases your durability noticeably. Normally, your E is left at one point given the taunt duration doesn't increase with rank, and also because the lower cooldown doesn't help you much during the laning phase given Shen's overall kill potential is pretty low. However in cases where you are dominating lane, the extra burst damage from putting more ranks in your Taunt is helpful, and in teamfights later in the game, you will eventually appreciate having a lower Taunt cooldown in extended skirmishes.
It's relatively uncommon, but also viable to consider maxing W first in situations where you want to body block abilities for your AD (primarily from champions like Ezreal, Blitzcrank, or Vel'Koz) or really heavy harass in general. In situations whereyou specifically are taking a lot of damage constantly, this technically gives you a LOT more sustain against heavy harass assuming you have good enough timing to react to different types of incoming damage, and makes you even harder to all-in. You sacrifice a lot of poke damage doing this which makes you worse at zoning by yourself, although your sustain from Q scales directly with your HP pool, making it still a decent sustain tool as you level up. If for whatever reason you choose to max W first in lane, you will probably benefit more from maxing E second, which maximizes your disruptiveness in sustained skirmishes sooner.
You will basically never max E first on Shen for any reason given his other abilities scale much better with rank overall for laning. If you are 2v1 laning, it might be viable for pressuring the enemy solo laner by engaging on him and peeling during ganks as well as roaming and ganking after you presumably kill the enemy tower. But I overall wouldn't recommend it.
Obviously, your ultimate is ranked whenever it is available. Try your best to have some cooldown reduction especially when using your rank 1 ultimate, as the 200 second cooldown is extremely long.
As Shen, you have three main goals when building items.
- Be able to give your team a vision advantage
- Build items that will benefit and amplify teammates
- Build things that make you tankier, especially with Health and Resistance scaling.
Support itemization offers you a number of options for doing this successfully.
Relic Shield is your gold item of choice. It serves a lot of extremely useful purposes. Aside from being a source of last hits, it offers both you and your lane partner a pretty decent chunk of sustain. Try your best to time your relic shield charges for last hitting Cannon minions, which are really valuable. Also try to actually save your charges for moments where you and your partner will actually benefit from the sustain.
In the earlygame, you will also start with a Warding Totem, a Stealth Ward, and two Health Potions. The warding totem and stealth ward are important for controlling lane brush and keeping vision of likely gank paths from enemy junglers. It is important to coordinate with your AD your trinket cooldowns during laning to control the right areas when laning.
If you are doing average or poorly during the laning phase, purchase a Targon's Brace and focus on safe farming until you are certain your team can set up ganks. If you are doing very well and coming out ahead, purchase a Sightstone, a Sweeping Lens, and a Vision Ward so you can aggressively control areas and scout for pressure from roaming enemies so that you can make better calls to play aggressively. Try your best to purchase a Kindlegem before using your ultimate, but don't be stingy on using your ultimate if you can see an opportunity to make a play or save a life with it.
Midgame, these should be your core items. Face of the Mountain gives 500 health, cooldown reduction, and another beefy shield that you can cast on a teammate, which combined with your ultimate is a really huge amount of durability that you can give to a teammate.
Ruby Sightstone gives both 400 health and the investment into the item also gives you access to a lot of free wards, which lets you and your team make more plays. Especially midgame when you want to split push for catching up in experience with your team and setting up plays, warding the map isextremely important.
You need some kind of boots to function midgame. Mercury's Treads are usually the optimal option on Shen by providing Magic Resist and tenacity, both of which make you harder to kill. However against teams that have fewer disables, and especially if they are primarily physical damage, it is important to remember that Ninja Tabi are cheaper and also very powerful. In the event that you are doing well, consider purchasing Enchantment: Alacrity on Shen, which will improve your roaming, chasing, and positioning for initiation.
Later in the game, you especially want to focus on building things in response to the enemy team composition as well as your own.
Locket of the Iron Solari is both a source of CDR and health and great for assisting your team against magic damage. 20 MR is a really noticeable buff especially on your squishier teammates, and the shield active is generally really useful for saving teammates and making better engages.
Randuin's Omen in contrast is for those games where you need more armor, especially against things that can right click you to death...especially that Vayne or Kog'Maw who deal % of health damage. This item is your answer to that. Just generally a great tank item with a useful passive and active.
Spirit Visage is there for you when you just need Magic Resist. Spirit Visage gives you a lot of that, a nice chunk of health, cooldown reduction, and the regen amplification passive has great synergy with your built in sustain.
Warmog's Armor is generally great when in doubt as Support Shen. Shen's kit scales very well with health, allowing him to do more burst damage and heal allies for more when he has a lot of health. You only have to be concerned if the enemy team has a lot of % of health damage abilities or lots of Blade of the Ruined King or Liandry's Torment, though the chances of a team building those items specifically to counter you are relatively low. Also note that 1000 health from this item equates to 100 more health on the shield active of Face of the Mountain.
Zeke's Herald is another worthy consideration if your team has multiple AD champions. This item can help your team contest objectives more efficiently, have more stats in a teamfight, and while the overall stats aren't super strong on Shen, you also appreciate the massive amount of CDR from this item as well so you can use your ultimate more often.
Banshee's Veil is another conditional but powerful option in cases where stacking extra magic resist is valuable. The item combined with Warmogs, Spirit Visage, and your built in healing can get pretty insane if the other team is low on physical damage.
Frozen Mallet is particularly good either if you're snowballing hard, or if your team needs help chasing or kiting champions with high movement speed.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter is in many ways statistically inferior to Frozen Mallet, but works similarly, with your slows applying to your Q primarily. The AP in particular makes your abilities a bit stronger, especially your ultimate, which can be valuable for saving a core teammate.
Frozen Heart by all means isn't a bad item on Shen even factoring you don't use mana. You get a lot of armor and CDR from this item, and the AS debuff aura is pretty strong too. This item should be built primarily against very heavily AD stacked teams.
Abyssal Scepter and other AP items are conditional on Shen given "pure" tank items overall tend to be comparably useful while providing more raw durability. However it is important to remember that AP itemization does help your burst damage and more importantly makes your ultimate shield considerably stronger, which can be valuable on protection comps.
Really lategame, you can consider either a Greater Vision Totem, an Oracle's Lens, or a Farsight Orb. The Greater Vision Totem is usually the best option for gaining potentially permanent vision of a location, or controlling Baron. Oracle's Lens also helps with warding wars while also providing utility against Stealth characters. Farsight Orb is situational, but can be useful if your team is having trouble contesting vision and also for helping some teammates with targetted spells chase into the fog of war.
If the game goes unusually long, you might consider selling your Ruby Sightstone for any of the above optional items to get tankier.
Support Shen like many other supports shines early game. His kit is very versatile and effective offensively and defensively. You should not however usually play Shen with a kill-lane mindset from the start, because his burst damage output is overall very low earlygame. While your Shadow Dash makes a good lockdown initiation, you probably won't be able to easily set up a kill with it unless your lane partner is someone with really high nuke damage like Tristana, and even then other supports are better for dedicated kill lanes. This doesn't mean however you can't be an effective aggressive support in some lanes.
Alright, I'm playing support Shen. Wtf am I supposed to do?
Your top priority generally speaking is to enable your partner to farm. There are two basic tasks for accomplishing this when you play support in general. Either keep your partner healthy, or bully the other team's bot lane so that they can't farm and harass efficiently. Shen is a support who can do both these things very effectively, so it is your job to be able to read the situation at hand and decide whether you want to harass the enemy or protect your AD.
Bullying people with Shen is about spamming your Vorpal Blade on them mostly. Keep in mind, this is actually harder than it sounds. Shen's Q only has 475 range, which significantly shorter ranged than any AD carry's autoattack range. Generally speaking, your approach is limited to brush camping to close the gap and then attempting to Q their carry or support as they last hit or commit to something that puts them out of position. Range ADs with good reflexes and positioning generally speaking can get free hits on you as you try to walk up and Q them. This is also more effective if you time this with your range AD to simultaneously attack a single target. The HP regen over time will noticeably put your range AD ahead in exchanges.
It is worth keeping in mind that given you start with a Relic Shield, you will naturally have a higher than average amount of health regeneration, so typically you can come out ahead in long term exchanges by simply persisting successfully at Q pokes. Alternatively, the threat of hitting an opposing carry with a Q or an E is often able to actually deny last hits under certain situations especially if they lack a sustain support, so oftentimes you can simply zone people by walking towards them. If you are taking a lot of harass though, you can Q and attack minions as a source of health regeneration. Just note that executing a minion with Relic Shield currently does not proc your Q healing, so consider last hitting creeps with your Q instead if you want to benefit quickly from more healing.
Speaking of E, your Shadow Dash can be used as an initiation tool, although you only really want to try this if you are certain your AD can follow up for big damage, particularly if this will guarantee a kill or at least blown defensive summoners. If you and your AD are at a reasonably strong advantage early on in lane, you may consider taking extra points in E to increase your burst damage output by a tiny bit.
If you're worried about laning with a weaker ranged AD, fear not, as this is another reason why Shen is a good support. You also have the option of playing lanes defensively very effectively. As a defensive support, you generally will save your E to peel attackers as necessary, or you will be using your lane presence to prevent the other team from approaching your carry safely.
If your AD carry is taking a lot of harass, you can also heal your carry by letting them attack targets that you mark with your Q. As stated earlier, the ideal situation is landing a Q on their carry/support and having your carry poke them back, which both heals your carry as well as dealing damage to the other team. Typically though if a lane is disadvantageous, you will often be pushed closer to turret. What you can do as Shen is Q healthy minions, and have your carry attack those. The heal may not look impressive immediately, but you can do it repeatedly, and it adds up quite a lot over time. While Shen does not have the same "burst" heal potential a Soraka, Sona, or even an Alistar might have, he can very easily keep up in sustain over time with these supports if played effectively because he is manaless.
Keep in mind, Shen has more difficulty than other supports in directly assisting his carry in last hitting minions under turret with the standard earlygame last hitting techniques given that his Ki Strike and Vorpal Blade will both do more than enough damage to kill minions under turret fire, and at higher levels when used together do enough damage to almost completely wipe out caster minions. Early on, you should typically prioritize freezing lane (which is preventing creep waves from moving past a certain point, such as into turret range). Alternatively, the other thing you can do is save Relic Shield executes for a few minions under turret if you sense the wave will push to your turret. While your Relic Shield and passive are down however, you can assist under turret last hits by contributing an extra autoattack to help your AD last hit caster minions under turret consistently.
The following tips apply generally speaking to all supports. Note that you are limited to placing three wards on the map, so usually it is ideal to bring back two wards with you on trips back until you complete your Sightstone.
1. If you are blue team, the most practical places to ward to prevent ganks include Dragon and the ramp leading to wraiths. This will prevent ganks from either directly through the river or from behind Dragon as long as you pay attention to the map, and this also helps keep your mid lane safe as well.
2. If you are trying to conserve wards but still want reasonably good coverage of ganks coming from the river, you can always simply just ward the area in between and above the tri bush and the bot river bush. This ward location works slightly better for purple team.
3. Warding bushes in the lane is good. You can do this to enable your carry to harass supports that are brush camping, which is especially critical against supports like Alistar, Leona, and Blitzcrank. It is also very common for junglers to attempt ganks by telling their bot lane to push the creep waves so that you do not have vision of them approaching through the lane bushes.
4. If your team invaded the jungle early to steal an important buff, it is prudent to ward the corresponding buff on your side of the map to make sure the other jungler doesn't attempt to counter invade for free. Likewise you can use wards aggressively against predictable junglers to give vision of when they reach a certain objective and encourage your team to kill them.
5. If you are carrying a Sweeping Lens, it can and should be used to deny the opponent vision used for any of the above stated purposes. Early on, you probably want to save it for defensive purposes to deny your opponent vision in brush you are camping in, because your low range makes you more vulnerable to kiting than other supports.
6. Vision Wards are situational to purchase early, but may be necessary against a jungle Evelynn or other stealth characters. It is best to try to hide them in bushes that you and your lane partner will be in position to defend.
7. Your range AD will be carrying a Warding Totem earlygame under normal circumstances, and communicating when he/she should ward a certain location is very important earlygame. The ward on this trinket only lasts 60 seconds, which means in defensive situations where you need to control the side lane brush near your tower, you need to carefully alternate cooldowns for keeping that brush warded to minimize the risk of being engaged on or ambushed.
Depending on how well your lane is going, midgame you will either purchase a Targon's Brace and some Stealth Wards or a Sightstone and a Sweeping Lens. Typically, it's a bit safer to focus on Targon's Brace first for superior stats and to ensure reliable farming and better lane sustain. However in situations where your lane is clearly doing better either due to kills, CS advantage, or general matchup, these situations you may benefit more from rushing Sightstone first so you can press your lead and maintain superior vision for exerting pressure safely.
Hitting Level 6
This is one of the best reasons to be playing Shen. You have the unique ability of counter ganking lanes from anywhere, at any time. A well-timed ult should generally save a life and under some circumstances possibly enable a kill. Be careful that you don't get interrupted by even a silence from Soraka if you're intending to peel attackers from the person you are ulting, although this does not cancel the shield that you place on your target. Your ult also can be used to help your jungler in gank situations by allowing him to make more risky plays with the benefit of a beefy shield to protect him.
Of course, one of the only downsides to support Shen compared to other supports is his ultimate isn't as directly helpful bot lane as others because ulting to save the life of your carry isn't quite as effective if the other team then switches focus to you while you're in lane. Don't take this to be a bad thing overall, because the rest of your kit is still very strong for serving whatever purpose your AD carry needs.
In emergencies however, you can also use your ultimate as a way to get back to lane faster as you recall ideally to purchase more wards and other stuff essential for you lane.
Snowballing your lane
As Shen, you should prioritize zoning over all-ins. Given Shen doesn't do a lot of damage, it's important to not get too greedy when trying to establish an advantage in lane. You can create a solid lead by forcing people out of lane, so don't be too discouraged by Shen's low kill potential.
If you really want someone to die however, possibly because their support/carry scales better or is farming better or is otherwise problematic to deal with in lane, then keep in mind that Shen is also very strong midgame when your jungler comes to gank. In this situation, be ready to flash E their carry if necessary. A good stunlock from your jungler, Shen's taunt, and perhaps an Ashe or Varus ultimate will probably kill someone very easily.
Before you call your jungler for a gank, it's prudent to thoroughly ward any location from which the opposing jungler or mid lane could attempt a counter gank. If the enemy jungler is someone like Pantheon or Nocturne in particular, take some time beforehand to actually ward inside their jungle, because they will avoid the standard warding spots at the river with their ultimates. Furthermore keep in mind that generally speaking if you fall behind, your lane will become a priority target for the enemy jungler to camp and countergank, making it especially important to make sure you are not forcing unfavorable engages. On the flipside, you especially want to tell your jungler to gank bot lane if you are ahead, because the risk of a countergank setting you behind is considerably lower, and may in fact just feed your team more kills if you're inherently stronger.
A team with Shen in general can kill Dragon very easily due to how strong Shen's sustain is. If you know the other team lacks vision at Dragon, or especially if your jungler successfully killed someone either bot or mid lane, your team should generally try to be very aggressive in controlling Dragon. Shen's Vorpal Blade gives free sustain for everyone who attacks Dragon, and you are strong at tanking Dragon as well due to your shield and sustain. Carrying a vision ward beforehand can be practical for ensuring that the area is cleared of enemy vision before contesting Dragon.
Solo farming and Roaming
While your ultimate Stand United is up, you should strongly consider splitting from your team when the laning phase is over. Primarily, you want to go somewhere on the map where nobody else is farming, and either farm the jungle or a lane for "free" gold and experience. In this way, Shen can create an EXP advantage for his team safely by not needing to be near teammates to be present in skirmishes. Should a fight break out, make sure you are watching the map for opportunities to turn things around with your ultimate.
While looking for places to farm, you want to also simultaneously leave wards behind to help any of your other teammates solo farm safely. If an enemy tower is killed, try to find an opportunity to place wards deep in the enemy jungle so that if one of your teammates wants to extend far into the lane to farm, they will have vision of ganks. Likewise if your towers are down, try warding within your own jungle. Especially when warding defensively, consider investing in a Vision Ward to place in brush within your own jungle.
Good midgame locations to ward for Blue Team:
- In between the enemy Blue Buff and Wight camp (offensive)
- The brush near the Wolf camp (offensive)
- The Wraith Ramp and the entrance leading to Wraiths (defensive)
- Red Buff (defensive)
The other thing you can do for your team after warding bot lane extensively is looking for opportunities to gank the other lanes. Shen is a strong ganker with his Shadow Dash, and especially because he can use his ultimate to get back to teammates on the other side of the map, you can for instance gank top lane more aggressively than other supports without sacrificing as much presence near Dragon as long as you have other teammates there.
By this point of the game, a lot of turrets are probably destroyed on either side, and teams are grouping and looking for opportunities to catch people out of position or to complete objectives quickly. Hopefully by this point you are sitting on at least one other major item besides your choice of boots, Ruby Sightstone, and Face of the Mountain.
In general, you will be grouped with your team or looking for gank opportunities if your ultimate is not available. While your ultimate is available, you can go pressure another lane. Make sure you ward carefully before split pushing. Even though you have a strong escape, it is definitely not in your best interest to get caught and killed unnecessarily.
With a tanky utility oriented build, obviously your goal is not specifically to fight other champions when split pushing, but rather force the other team to split up to create opportunities to pick fights that are in your favor or contest other objectives. This works especially well when you either have other strong 1v1 champions simultaneously split pushing or a strong overall hard engage which can capitalize on a disoriented team.
As the team's support, it is also extremely important you save wards for controlling Baron, because completing Baron is worth 5 champion kills as well as huge stat buffs comparable to having your own personal Sona. It is especially critical to have map awareness to notice what efforts the enemy team is also investing in controlling Baron and setting up ambushes. Keep track of enemy positions constantly, and use them as opportunities to ward the area near Baron safely. Even if you are a tank, it is not fun to get caught by an entire team hiding in that one bush either leading to wraiths or outside the Baron/Dragon pit.
A basic way to set up a Baron opportunity is to slowly push bot lane and kill just enough minions before leaving so that your creep wave is just strong enough to kill the rest. This will slowly result in a giant minion wave building up as your own creeps periodically get interrupted by weaker creep waves, which will put a lot of pressure on the enemy base. As Shen though, you also have the option of continuously pushing with your creeps if the enemy team refuses to contest you and joining skirmishes with your ultimate.
This is one of the easiest and most satisfying parts of playing Support Shen in my opinion. Shen sports a kit that has high defensive utility and strong direct scalings with pure durability items, which overall gives him easy ability to transition on a budget.
In teamfights, you can either peel enemies from your carry, or you can initiate on someone out of position. This requires being able to assess how well your team is able to focus targets or defend against initiations. If the other team has a threatening assassin, you probably want to prioritize peeling the assassin when he attempts to dive your carry. If your team is capable of really high burst damage, then you want to try taunting a squishy target. If other members of your team are capable of initiating, it also can be good to wait for them to start, and then take advantage of this to get in a better position to either taunt multiple targets or isolate high priority threats during the chaos. If the other team is still doing a lot of damage to your carries, then do remember to use your ultimate. At max rank, blocking 850 damage on an allied unit is extremely strong. Combine this with the active effect from Locket of the Iron Solari and Face of the Mountain, you can potentially be blocking up to 2400 points of damage total for your team instantly.
Are you getting focussed and killed during teamfights after you get off your full spell rotation? If teams are fairly evenly matched, then it's probably fine if you are the first to die on the team as long as you disabled someone and saved lives on your team. The best case scenario however is the other team not only focusses you, but they fail to actually kill you before you escape, which is not a very unrealistic scenario when you keep in mind that Shen's Shadow Dash at max rank with 40% cooldown reduction is on a 4.8 second cooldown. Of course, you have to keep in mind that your E has an extremely high energy cost. Which brings me to my next section.
While Shen is a very forgiving champion by design, your ability to manage Shen's energy costs will truly determine the skilled Shen players from the decent ones. Here I will give some basic guidelines on how to manage Shen's energy. These alone will not make or break Shen, but mastery of your resource management in general will make you a better and more efficient player. Ask yourself these questions to determine the optimal way to use your abilities.
1. Do I have blue buff?
If so, then don't worry too much about your energy costs and feel free to go nuts in fights if you're not committing suicide. Yes Blue Buff is actually strong on Shen. Lower cooldowns are never a bad thing, and combined with the huge +30 per 5 bonus in energy regeneration, you can be significantly more aggressive with Shen when you are carrying a Blue Buff. Combined with optimal use of Ki Strike, Blue on Shen essentially can enable you to spam your Q and W nearly on cooldown constantly. This does not mean that you should be taking Blue Buff from your AP carry, but in the event you are able to steal a buff from the other team, it's a very very nice bonus on Shen.
2. How badly do I need to escape?
At rank 1, the cooldown on Shen's Shadow Dash is such that it forces you to wait long enough to the point that its energy cost is a relatively minor issue. At higher ranks however, using Shen's dash strictly as an escape will pretty much put you almost completely out of energy after using it twice in a row, especially if you are using it as soon as possible with cooldown reduction factored. If you use your Feint to block incoming damage, keep in mind there is a risk involved as you will often have to wait slightly longer for your energy to restore to a point where you are allowed to dash again. Keep in mind a 1-2 second delay in hopping a wall can make or break a successful escape with Shen, meaning during heated moments, you will often have to turn around to attack your enemies with Ki Strike to have enough energy to enable your survival.
3. What do I need when initiating?
Do I need damage or do I need crowd control? If you need damage and want to go for the instagib (with teammates of course), then by all means unload your EQW immediately on the unfortunate person you caught out of position. Note that this costs 230 energy. You regain 40 energy for taunting a single target, and at level 13 you regain 30 energy for using Ki Strike. Basically this leaves you with 40 energy remaining. Assuming you don't have a blue buff or Energy runes, it takes a full 8 seconds to have just enough energy to recast it assuming you cast no other abilities within that timeframe, which is the cooldown duration of your Taunt at max rank without cooldown reduction. With that in mind, if you left out your Feint from the engage, you would have just enough energy to dash in again, and then use Vorpal Blade on someone successfully assuming the taunt landed after waiting only 5 seconds, which is basically the cooldown of your Shadow Dash with 40% cooldown reduction. Now on the other hand, if you strictly saved your energy for only using Shadow Dash, you pretty much would break about even in energy costs and energy restored. This assumes your dash always taunts a single champion, you land a Ki Strike each time after dashing, and factors 40% cooldown reduction. If you taunted 3 champions on the other hand, then feel free to go nuts, because not only did you completely refund your energy for dashing, it was probably such a damn good initiation that your team should win that fight, and should win it fast.
4. Did I just flat out screw up and miss an offensive taunt?
Check tip 2 and think for a moment carefully before carelessly tossing a Vorpal Blade on someone as you retreat.
5. Am I going to be autoattacking a lot?
If you're really fed, build a Frozen Mallet so you can stick to enemies with your autoattacks and then if you are expected to semi-carry games, maybe consider a Wits End or Trinity Force for raw DPS. Shen can restore his energy more efficiently if he increases the rate at which he can proc Ki Strike. Note that if you can autoattack three times during the duration of your Feint, this basically refreshes Ki Strike in just three seconds if you previously just used it. Without Feint, it typically will come up after four consecutive autoattacks over the course of about five seconds.
6. What about Energy Regen runes?
Energy Regen/level runes give you 10 Energy per 5 at level 18. This is not nearly as powerful as acquiring a Blue, so it is important to maintain good basic resource management habits in general. However, the benefits of Energy runes are something you can notice and appreciate when you experience how they can increase your margin of error especially if you like taking advantage of the benefits of cooldown reduction in a pure tank build. By understanding your inherent limits, you can optimize your playstyle with Energy runes by finding nuanced moments where you know it's acceptable to whiff your E for mobility purposes, and get more opportunities to spam Q and W in duels.
Shen is a very versatile support that is able to successfully lane with many champions. Usually in soloque though, you will typically lane with a range AD, which usually helps you cover your weakness of kiting. In general though, aside from wanting champions to help him deal with kiting, picking Shen with champions that pack extra disables and nukes is ideal.
Preferred Range ADs
Ashe is one of Shen's better laning partners because she has long enough range to poke and farm safely, and because her crowd control makes you harder to kite. She also offers a deadly level 6 with her ultimate.
Corki has a really large amount of burst damage built in his kit, allowing him and Shen to easily dominate aggressive exchanges. Furthermore Corki's strong poke game also makes this lane hard to abuse post-6.
Jinx is a hard carry that primarily just needs peel and protection to decimate enemies (and towers), and also has excellent spells to contribute in hard engages. In general Shen can keep her alive pretty effectively while also offering good opportunities to initiate fights with her.
Lucian has very strong burst damage, which allows him to lane very well with Shen. Also Shen's overall defensive utility throughout the game makes him both incredibly dangerous to fight solo and hard to assassinate.
Miss Fortune somewhat like Jinx is a very teamfight oriented Marksman who needs peel and protection, but does very well with teammates who offer it. She also is very dominant in exchanges earlygame, and Shen's AOE taunt can be an excellent tool for setting up her ultimate.
Sivir's Boomerang Blade is basically one of the top three range AD damage abilities in the game. Shen's taunt is a 1.5 second disable. Simply put, Sivir is extremely dangerous with teammates that have disables. Sivir's ultimate furthermore gives lots of movement speed to herself and her teammates, which you especially appreciate for initiating fights.
Varus's main weakness is a lack of escapes, and Shen is a good bodyguard. Varus also both has extremely strong poke and initiation potential, making him a devastating partner to have at level 6.
Shen thrives with other strong divers and initiators with high damage. Champions like Hecarim, Shyvana, Nocturne, Kha'Zix, and Jarvan IV can all dive from extremely long ranges, and are even scarier when backed by Shen's ultimate which makes them tankier, and also adds the threat of your followup taunt to further disable enemies.
Champions with global ganking like Pantheon and Twisted Fate similarly are that much more devastating when backed up by Shen, who can protect them as they teleport into the thick of a fight.
Strong pushers are also very good teammates with Shen. Especially in the case of champions like Tryndamere and Karthus who have mechanics that enable them to cheat death and be menaces lategame, delaying their deaths with your ultimate is incredibly scary.
Probably one of the most overall useful teammates to have with Shen is Lulu. Like you, she offers a lot of ability to protect teammates. She can also speed you up, give you bonus health, and significantly amplify your initiation potential.
Sample Shen Dream Team
Here, I will primarily list support lane matchups.
Lulu runs out of mana trying to harass you, and cannot sustain your Vorpal Blade
Janna runs out of mana trying to shield your manaless harass and doesn't do enough damage to break through your sustain.
Nami can't really stun you easily, and also can't outsustain you in a poke war.
Taric is basically a worse Shen with a terrible mana pool.
Blitzcrank lacks poke and sustain, and doesn't have a strong enough all-in to kill you even if you need to body block hooks for your AD.
Braum can't really all-in Shen at any other point of the game except at level 1. After that, you simply win the lane by poking with impunity and having manaless sustain.
Thresh has a decent ranged autoattack for trading hits with you. However you can disengage from or avoid Thresh's hard engage easily as long as your range AD also positions carefully.
Leona has a high damage hard engage, but she can't really engage on Shen. If she successfully engages on your AD, you need to Taunt her AD to prevent him/her from following up.
Soraka's sustain and poke is annoying, but she doesn't have the ability to really hard engage. Shen unlike Soraka is good at setting up ganks, giving him the advantage in those situations.
Annie has a long ranged autoattack that you don't have a real answer to. You can tank and disengage from her ability harass pretty well and not be at risk of dying, but you will likely need ganks to take advantage of Annie's fragility.
Alistar has strong sustain and strong enough disables to force you to play really carefully earlygame. You need to save your Flash for his Pulverize Headbutt combo. Avoid standing next to your range AD. If you can do it fast, it is worth Taunting Alistar if he Flash Pulverises your AD to peel. If Alistar cannot kill you with a Pulverize Headbutt combo, then you can outpressure him with manaless poke. Focus his AD ideally if it's safe.
Sona while running on mana has strong enough poke and sustain to force you out of lane, and you need ganks to get the advantage against her. Focus her first in exchanges and skirmishes.
Zyra has mana efficient long ranged poke and harass that you can't really contest. Remember that you can kill her plants with 1 Q and an auto, but be careful not to waste Relic Shield charges for just 5 gold.
Vel'Koz is probably your hardest lane counter. He has the benefit of both mana efficient poke, AND a strong potential all-in which can kill you extremely quickly if you do not dodge his knockup. You need ganks and you usually need to focus him first in skirmishes.
Caitlyn lanes typically will be really annoying for Shen given you are really easily kited. However Caitlyn is not as strong in skirmishes as other ADs, meaning if you can avoid falling too far behind, you benefit from ganks more.
Shen is a very overlooked support that can fit on many team compositions viably and has very strong laning presence. A well played Shen can easily win a game for his team by constantly saving lives, locking down and softening threats, and providing virtually unrivaled utility. Playing Shen as a support does not make him less useful than playing him as a solotop, and as a whole makes your team harder to kill by providing your team a tanky and disruptive champion bot lane in addition to whatever champion your team chooses to send top in the end.
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide and found something useful from it.