Shaco Build Guide by Halfwaycroox
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Hello, and welcome to my guide for Shaco. Shaco is a complex champ with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He excels at clearing the jungle and ganking, and can quickly assassinate all but the tankiest of enemies. He has remarkable flexibility in his build path, allowing you to adapt your items and strategy as the game progresses. The recommended items that I put at the top of the guide are just a rough framework of what you'll generally build in most games, but feel free to change items around as the flow of the game requires.
Now, a little bit about myself, along with a small disclaimer. My name is Halfwaycroox, and I'm currently ranked Silver 2. I'm not a Shaco expert, I haven't been playing him since release, I don't even do much ranked with him. So, like every guide for League of Legends, take my advice with a grain of salt. I don't know everything, but I'm hoping that I can spread what knowledge I have garnered through numerous personal games and observations of high-level streamers. I have a lot of previous experience on Spy in TF2, having put in over 300 hours on the class and playing competitively, so I was naturally drawn to Shaco. The psychological aspect of playing them shares a lot of commonalities, which I believe gives me a slight advantage over other people who are at my skill level. Shaco is one of the few champions that does not have a clearly-defined playstyle or build path, and as such there are always new things being discovered about him. The items, runes, masteries, and skill order that I use may not be -and probably aren't- the same as other Shaco players. This does not mean one is more correct than the other. Oftentimes methods and strategies don't become popular until someone who is well-known showcases it on stream or in a tournament. This means that, while rare, it is possible for someone who may not have a high rank or a well-known stream to come up with a perfectly viable, and perhaps even superior, strategy.
One more thing. I'm not into the whole "fancy BBCode" thing. Most of my prior experience with writing guides has been in plain text format, which I have come to prefer. If this is something that bothers you to the point where it will affect your ability to read this guide, please look elsewhere.
Let's Talk About Shaco
Now that that's all out of the way, let's focus on the basics: What is Shaco's purpose? Shaco is a powerful duelist who can counterjungle, gank, and push down towers relatively quickly. He has some of, if not the best, escapes in the game, and can easily bait an opponent into a bad fight (I'll get into the details of that later). He is most often played as a jungler, but it isn't unheard of to take him top or mid as a standard AD or even AP caster. Another option is TAPS (Tanky AP Support Shaco), which involves doing exactly what the name implies. Shaco is a deceptively good support, which many people underestimate. Seeing as how I've only played TAPS a few times I won't get into all the details, although I will certainly provide as in-depth of a discussion as I possibly can.
These are your standard jungle runes. Shaco, being the flexible champion that he is, is not limited by this particular set of runes. Because he can clear the jungle quickly and remain at a relatively high health, it is certainly possible (and encouraged!) to try out different combinations. I like to run him with either an AD Caster or an AD Carry setup, in addition to the standard jungle.
Taking AS Reds, MS Quints, Scaling MR Blues and Armor Yellows will provide good clear times along with more opportunities to chase, gank, and counterjungle. This is what I run if I'm not sure what I want to do against their team comp or if I know I won't get many chances to gank. I use this in conjunction with the standard Shaco Masteries at the top of the guide.
Taking AD Reds and Quints, Scaling MR Blues and Armor Yellows gives him an extra bit of punch in his early ganks, which will certainly help secure more kills. I take this setup if they have a lot of gankable champions/squishies. I use this in conjunction with standard 21/0/9 AD Caster masteries to maximize on damage.
Taking AD Reds, Lifesteal Quints, Flat MR Blues and Armor Yellows gives Shaco extra sustain and dueling capability. I run this in conjunction with 19/0/11 Masteries to start with 9% Lifesteal as well as a fair bit of damage and armor penetration. This setup can be useful if you plan on splitpushing, since you can build Statikk Shiv early and not have to worry as much about buying potions or tanking minions.
I know this is getting redundant, but Shaco has quite a bit of flexibility in his mastery choices. Your main options are going to be the standard setup at the top of the guide, or the AD Carry 9% Lifesteal build. If you're unsure of how to set that up, here it is:
Summoner's Wrath: 1/1
Weapon Expertise: 1/1
Brute Force: 2/2
Improved Recall: 1/1
Once again, this is a build that is more suited to splitpushing. If you need to assassinate, use the standard Shaco build or the standard AD Caster build.
Alright, here's where it gets tricky. There are so many good items and build paths for Shaco, it is impossible to narrow it down to one core build. Even his first big item is situational. The main thing to remember is that the most important stats for Shaco are Attack Speed and Attack Damage, followed by Critical Chance and Lifesteal. Movement Speed is also a big deal. What you build is dependent on your role and how the game progresses.
"Are you expected to assassinate their carry, or splitpush?"
"Did your ganks go well, or are you a bit behind?"
"Are you able to gank, or do you have to spend some time farming the jungle?"
"Are you getting counterjungled? If so, will you need to duel them?"
These are all questions that you need to ask yourself when playing Shaco. You must be aware of how well you and the rest of your team are doing, and build accordingly. With that out of the way, let's get into it from the beginning.
Obviously, you want to start with a Hunter's Machete and 5 Health Potions. Already, though, it's beginning to get tricky. Whether or not you upgrade your Machete into a Madred's Razors or a Spirit Stone is up to you. Personally. I don't upgrade the Machete at all, and instead sell it after I get my first big item. While Madred's Razors/Wriggle's Lantern can be helpful for splitpushing, I prefer to have the extra item slot open for something that gives a bit meatier stats.
After your first back, always buy boots. The early movement speed will help your ganks much more than a Dagger or Long Sword, since you will be coming with the element of surprise and already have excellent damage, especially if you run AD Runes.
At this point you need to decide whether to upgrade into Boots of Mobility or start working on your first big item. I know I didn't mention Boots of Mobility in the recommended build, but it's something that you should really consider (I'll get into why I recommended Berzerker's Greaves in a bit). Having Boots of Mobility will allow you to apply constant pressure in any lane, as well as escape from just about any sticky situation. If you plan on ganking frequently, pick up Boots of Mobility as quickly as possible.
Now that you've got your Machete and possibly-upgrade boots, it's time to start working on your first item. Generally you have three main choices here:
- Statikk Shiv
- Youmuu's Ghostblade
- Blade of the Ruined King
Each of them offers their own benefits and drawbacks, so I'll go ahead and cover each one now.
Statikk Shiv will give you some much-needed Attack Speed and Movespeed, as well as some extra damage and Critical Chance to boot. You will clear very quickly and your ganks will have some extra burst behind them. Plus, you have a head start on a splitpush build, should you need to do this. The downside to this is, you will not have much sustain, so you'll be forced to spend some money on health potions and/or recall fairly often. I would recommend getting this if you know that you will be splitpushing or if your gank targets are unable to killed with sustained damage and need to be burst down.
Youmuu's Ghostblade, like Statikk Shiv, will give you Critical Chance, Attack Speed, and Movement Speed, all of which you need. It also provides a decent chunk of damage and Armor Penetration, which is always welcome. Like Statikk Shiv, the downside to this is you will be unable to sustain yourself very well. Also, it's not the best item for splitpushing, so if that's the case then you're better off with the Statikk Shiv. I would recommend building this if they are building early armor or if you need to stick to them better.
Blade of the Ruined King is the third standard option for a first item. Building an early Cutlass will help out your ganks by dealing extra damage and slowing them, as well as providing some much-needed sustain in the jungle. Building it up to the Blade of the Ruined King will also give your autoattacks quite a bit more punch. Unfortunately, it's not as useful for splitpushing, and it will delay your Critical Chance items. I would recommend building this if your gank targets do not have any dashes/blinks or if you find yourself a bit behind and need some extra damage and sustain.
As you can see, each item has equal benefits and drawbacks, so it's imperative to be able to identify which would be best for that point in the game. After your first item, there are several choices you can make for the rest of your build.
If you started with a Statikk Shiv, you can then go into either a Ravenous Hydra if splitpushing, or an Infinity Edge if you're assassinating. Ravenous Hydra is an excellent splitpush item, both for the sustain it gives, the active, and of course the passive. Building it will allow you to splitpush with impunity, which most lower-levelled teams cannot handle. This is your best bet for finishing a game quickly, especially if your team is ahead and can hold their own in a 4v5. Conversely, if your team needs you to be around for teamfights, it is a much better idea to build an Infinity Edge. It grants a massive boost to your damage and will allow you to assassinate and duel just about anyone.
If you started with a Youmuu's Ghostblade, your best option is most likely an Infinity Edge. If you got the Youmuu's Ghostblade because the enemy was stacking armor, you may want to go into a Black Cleaver. Your ult's clone applies on-hit effect, so you will be able to shred through a substantial amount of armor fairly quickly. Going into a Statikk Shiv is also an option, although I'd recommend the Infinity Edge over it.
If you started with a Blade of the Ruined King, you have quite a few options for your next item. Black Cleaver, Infinity Edge, Statikk Shiv, Phantom Dancer, Bloodthrister, and Ravenous Hydra are all valid choices depending on your circumstances. Also, if you bought Boots of Mobility, you can sell them for Berzerker's Greaves for a bit of extra damage if you can afford it.
After your first couple of items, you'll want to "fill in the gaps" with items you need. Are they building armor? Get a Last Whisper. Are you committed to splitpushing? Get a Sunfire Cape. Haven't built a Blade of the Ruined King yet? Get on that. There's not much to say at this point because literally everything is purely situational. Plus, if the game isn't over by the time you've got your 3rd or 4th item, you're probably in a bad spot.
One thing to note: If your team is behind or it's getting into lategame, it can be better to start building tanky. Oftentimes two big damage items are enough to assassinate a carry, so building tanky items such as Randuin's Omen, Warmog's Armor, Frozen Heart, and Guardian Angel will give you an extra boost of survivability without sacrificing much of your ability to kill people. You won't be 1v5ing with it, but your team will thank you.
Whew, that was quite a bit to write. Thankfully, his skill order isn't as complex. If you're doing the standard blue start, taking your W first and start placing boxes at :55 seconds into the game. Your boxes last for one minute, so you should be able to stack at least 4 before blue spawns, allowing you to take it in less than five seconds solo, and that's smiteless. If you're planning on ganking at level 2, take a point in Q. Otherwise, take E for the extra survivability and damage it gives you in the jungle.
At level 3 take your Q and start ganking. I'll get into the specifics of that later.
Max your E first for the burst damage and slow, then boxes second. Your Q is more for utility, so max that last.
Shaco is one of the few champions that can get away without using Flash. I like to take Smite/Ignite for the extra damage. Most people don't expect a jungler to run ignite, and it will really help you win fights against the enemy jungler and secure kills on ganks. You can run Flash instead if you want extra jukes, which you may want to do if you know that you'll be splitpushing.
How to Shaco
Now that we've got all the basics out of the way, let's get into how to actually play Shaco. Your main focus is getting a lead as early as possible. Be disruptive to the enemy jungler. Run around in their jungle. Take their buffs. Do everything you can to ensure that they cannot effectively gank your teammates. If a lane is gankable, do it. Shaco's usefulness depends entirely on how well he did in the early game. Thankfully, he has a lot of tools to help him get ahead. Use your deceive to get in behind the enemy laner, place a box and immediately attack. If they don't react quickly, they will be feared by the box and most likely die. If they do react quickly, then they will be taking a fair chunk of damage at the very least.
Remember the importance of buffs. Shaco benefits greatly from both blue and red, so take those from the enemy whenever possible. You always want to give blue to your mid if they will benefit from it, so you will need to rely on other methods of acquiring it. Don't be afraid to buy wards for the enemy blue/red so you can take it quickly or even kill the enemy jungler while they try to do it.
If you made it past early game and didn't get fed, you are in a bit of a tight spot. Your options at this point are:
- Farm as much as possible/pick up kills wherever possible and attempt to assassinate the carry
- Build tanky, provide support in teamfights as well as some decent damage
Shaco's role in teamfights and mid-lategame as a whole is extremely limited. If you're not fed, it will be very difficult to come back and assert yourself as a threat to the enemy team. Thankfully, you can always splitpush and then easily escape when someone comes to kill you.
That's about it for basic play strategy. You will learn the small nuances as you play, and gradually develop your own routine. Everybody plays Shaco differently, so don't be afraid to experiment a bit.
Alright, here's a short little section explaining TAPS Shaco. As a support, your goal is to protect the AD Carry and get him fed. Shaco does an excellent job of this through creative use of his skillset. Use your E to poke and harass the enemy laners. Set up your boxes in bushes to zone the enemy and create an area of safety for yourself. Because Shaco has such excellent base damage and survivability, you should be able to win the majority of 2v2 fights and escape from just about any jungler gank. Get an early Philosopher's Stone and Kage's Lucky Pick for the gold generation, sustain, and damage. From there you can get a Runic Bulwark, Iceborn Gauntlet, Liandry's, or literally anything else that gives tankiness, utility, and/or AP. Lich Bane? Go for it. Twin Shadows? Why not? Just have fun with it.
Tips and Tricks
In addition to the obvious connotations of Shaco's abilities, there are numerous little things you can do to really mess with the enemy and bring your Shaco game to the next level. Being able to make use of these is what separates a good Shaco player from a great one.
You can use Deceive over walls to avoid wards. This is useful for ganking mid and bot, as you can Deceive over the wall into the bush. Unless they have Vision Wards, they'll never see it coming. If they do have pinks, get your laners to buy their own or do it yourself.
Activating your ult makes you untargetable for a short amount of time. You can use this to avoid damage, like a shorter version of Zhonya's Hourglass. It requires good timing, but it will prove invaluable in saving you from dire situations. Notable uses include avoiding Caitlyn's ult and taking tower aggro off of you. This can be useful when you dive, as you can just ult after the kill if you haven't used it already and the tower will stop aggroing you.
The smoke from Deceive can be seen from the Fog of War, so be mindful when using it even if there are no wards around.
You can easily solo dragon at early levels with your boxes and clone. Having a bit of lifesteal helps too.
Your clone applies on-hit effects, which makes items like Statikk Shiv, Blade of the Ruined King, and Black Cleaver very good.
Use your Deceive wisely. Running in one direction and Deceiving the exact opposite will catch a lot of people off-guard. You can also run into a bush and Deceive out so they'll have no idea which way you went. Or, you can run into a bush, run out, then Deceive back into the bush. Chances are they won't check it as they'll think that you ran out and Deceived in another direction.
What Not to Do
Of course, there are a lot of Shaco tricks that everybody knows that you should avoid. The key to playing Shaco is to be completely unpredictable. Don't go into a game with a rigidly-defined plan of what you're going to do. Just let the game run and improvise as you go. Deceiving in a random direction may not seems like the best idea, especially if it takes you further from the illusion of safety from a tower or teammate, but if you play completely unpredictably, the enemy will have no idea what you're going to do next. So, here are some tricks that every beginner and pubstomper Shaco loves to do. And while they may work on some people, more coordinated teams and better players will quickly catch onto your tricks, predict where you're going to be, and ambush you.
Do not take blue and then immediately run to the enemy wraiths and start placing boxes in the bush. This is an excellent strategy to use against newer players and in normals, but anybody that's played against a Shaco before will know this is coming and ambush you. This is a lesson that many Shaco players learn the hard way as they progress through the rankings.
Do not Deceive into a team to try and assassinate their carry. Wait until one of the teams has initiated and blown their CC. Once they're a bit softened up and disjointed, then you can come in an wreak havoc.
Do not throw your Shiv as soon as you attack someone, unless you know you need the burst to kill them instantly. The passive slow that your E provides on an autoattack is the same as the slow that it gives when you activate it, so you will generally want to wait until the enemy is out of reach before you throw it, to maximize your sticking power and slow potential.
Do not splitpush if your team can't handle a 4v5. Taking the inner bot turret is great and all, but it won't matter much if the enemy is pushing into your nexus turrets. Correctly splitpushing will take a lot of pressure off your team and can turn a game around, but doing it wrong will only result in a quicker loss.
Don't activate your ult and send your clone to attack the enemy team for some free damage. All it will do is get kited and killed, and you'll be out of an ult for the next fight. Instead, use it to avoid damage or get an advantage in a 1v1 or teamfight.
I've like to give a big thank you to Perfects AKA Fredfrost for being my Shaco inspiration. He's constantly innovating with new builds and playstyles, and streams frequently at Diamond 1 solely playing Shaco. Massive props, and the hugest of thank-yous for inspiring me to play what has become one of, if not my favorite, champions.
Also want to give a shoutout to my friend GeneralWool for introducing me to TAPS Shaco and providing valuable insight for what to build. I love you.
Finally, a big thank you to all the friends and teammates that put up with me while I was still learning how to play Shaco. I know how frustrating it can be when you have an incompetent Shaco on the team, so thank you all for going easy on me while I was learning.
And that just about covers it! Thank you for taking the time to read this guide. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you learned something new. If you have any comments/questions/concerns/criticisms feel free to comment or add me in game. My IGN is Halfwaycroox. If you'd like to learn Shaco directly or if you want to see how I play, I would be more than happy to play a few games with you. Of course, you can also add me just to say hey or ask questions or call me terrible.