Shen Build Guide by
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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.
I main Shen, and have played him in ~400 games. When the nerfs hit, and he stopped being an insta-ban in ranked, I thought Shen had become unplayable. Turns out, though, that I just needed to change my build and playstyle. He's no longer OP, but still a tier 1 tank -- let's explore how to get there.
- Tier 1 Tank
- AOE Taunt
- No longer banned or played guarantees you can get him
- Low damage output
- Terrible farmer
- Requires a lot of communication
Flash -- put it on whichever key feels more natural to you. This is crucial for positioning during teamfights, and makes you uncatchable in an escape situation. Sometimes I'll see the argument that Shadow Dash makes it redundant, but the reality is that SD is on a 10 second cooldown and Flash allows you to do an instant double-wall jump. Further discussions on why I don't take Ghost below.
Fortify -- The most underrated and underused Summoner Spell, it's a massive advantage for your team. Because the associated mastery point is in Defense, it is only feasible for tanks to take it. Fortunately, it's perfect for Shen anyway. There are three situations in which you want to use fortify:
1) You or a teammate gets dived. Activate fortify and watch as the turret rips the assaulter apart.
2) Cover your turret having got out of position with your ult.
3) Stop a lategame backdoor.
Other Summoner Spells, and why I don't take them:
Ignite -- You don't want kills, and dealing damage is not your job. Back before the nerfs when Shen could conceivably carry, the damage was good for netting first blood. Now, however, you'll be looking to be getting assists. Make sure someone on the team has an ignite for self-healing champions, just not you.
Clairvoyance -- I experimented a lot with using it, but the fact is without the Utility mastery tree, the cooldown is just too long. Leave the job to your support.
Teleport -- I've played a lot of matches with it (notice a theme?), and ultimately I decide against it. Facing facts, Shen is just not good enough at clearing minion waves, nerfing half the function of the spell (defending or split pushing)
Ghost -- Once again, trust that I've played with Ghost a lot. It's not bad by any means, but Flash is superior primarily because of the surprise aspect. A Flash/Dash will catch someone off guard, because they're only estimating the distance you can close with Flash. Ghost gives your opponent time to react, and we don't want that.
Flat Magic Penetration -- What little damage you have is magic: Ki Strike and Vorpal Blade. While you won't be doing anything against tanks, being able to do a couple hundred damage to squishies is helpful for making them target you (you always want to be targeted).
Dodge -- I choose dodge over armor or health because the stat is impossible to get in-match, Ninja Tabi excepted. The basic premise of tanking math/stat wise is that the less you have of a defensive stat (MR/Armor/Health/Dodge), the more valuable it is. Therefore, the first 10% of dodge we get here is more valuable than stacking more and more health or armor.
Scaling Magic Resist -- I used to go with flat magic resist, but over time I determined that lategame is much more important for Magic Resist. You'll still find yourself starting the game with a respectable MR, and more importantly that mid and lategame your MR is on par with your Armor.
Dodge -- see above.
Standard tanking masteries of 0/22/8.
- Forgo Ardor because we don't need ability power or attack speed.
- Spend an extra point in defense for Fortify because we don't need the 9th point in utility.
- Utility over Offense because the quicker we get to our ult, the better Shen we are.
- Finally, I take Good Hands Good Hands over Perseverance Perseverance because people much smarter than me have done the math:
"Passive" Ki Strike --
Your main source of damage in teamfights, because it costs no energy and activates the more you get hit. It doesn't do a great deal of damage, but over time it can harrass a carry effectively enough. Earlygame, this is how you'll be farming minions.
"Q" Vorpal Blade --
Useful mainly for farming, or if you have the spare energy to do it, hitting a carry in a teamfight. Also notable for the lifetap, which can be useful on Baron, Dragon, or whatever else your AD carries are hitting.
"W" Feint --
No frills shield. Can be used earlygame literally: feint and get your lane opponent to waste a skill on you. Hammer away at it during teamfights when you're getting hit, and activate it right after a taunt to protect yourself.
"E" Shadow Dash --
The best skill in League of Legends. It's an AoE (Area of Effect) taunt for 2 seconds at rank 5. Other uses include:
1) Escape. Shadow Dash will go through trees, and even cut off solid corners. Make sure the end of the dash is firmly beyond the obstacle, however, or you will hit your head against a wall.
2) Tower Defense. No one (smart) will get near a tower with you around. If they forget about your taunt and try to hit the tower while it targets minions, just taunt them and watch as the turret recalculates the threat. Used in conjunction with Feint and Fortify, you are deceptively dangerous at low health when at a tower.
3) Initation/Crowd Control (CC). I prefer not to use it on a single target unless we are chain CC'ing, but it can be acceptable. Try to target clusters of enemies, and you'll set up your mage perfectly for a double/triple kill nuke.
"R" Stand United --
This used to be the defining skill in Shen's kit, but the nerf hit it hard, especially at levels 1 and 2. Now, you have to understand that before level 3, the shield is perfunctory, and its real use in saving allies is simply teleporting you to them for a taunt. Combined with Fortify, your teammates can sometimes kite a cocky tower diver into his own death.
Importantly, make sure you can gauge when an ult will save an ally, and when it will simply turn a 1v3 into a 2v3 and a double kill for your opponents.
Finally, ALWAYS communicate when your ult is up and when it is down, including cooldown seconds left. Teammates will often just assume it's up if you don't say anything, and then (properly) blame you for their death. Make sure your team is aware of your CD status at all times, and they'll be able to act cautiously or aggresively accordingly.
The above sequence IS NOT SET IN STONE. This is important.
While I will usually prioritize "E" (while still putting points in "W" so I don't die), there are games that merit taking more points in "Q" earlier. For example, if my team composition forces me into a 1v1 on top, I find it necessary to level "Q" as a priority. It will let you farm, harrass, and since the real value of the taunt comes when you have an ally around, it isn't a loss to hold off on it.
Items -- Core Build
Ruby Crystal --
I've experimented a lot with starting kit after starting kit. Regrowth pendant, boots of speed, Doran's Shield is a popular one... I've settled on Ruby Crystal for a variety of reasons, however.
1) The rule of tanking stats, again, is to prioritize whatever is lowest relative to the other stats. At the start of the game, this is health for Shen. Very simply, the additional health does the best job of protecting you for the amount of gold spent at the outset.
2) It builds straight into Heart of Gold, which we need as early as possible to keep pace with everyone else, given Shen's poor farming.
3) Since Shen is energy based, we only need to worry about managing health. Health regen used to be my main consideration, but because you are going to "B" as soon as possible to get a Heart of Gold, it won't matter if you're slightly less sustainable.