Shen Build Guide by TeknoXI
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
Your votes and comments encourage our guide authors to continue
creating helpful guides for the League of Legends community.
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.
In Japanese, "bakuretsu" roughly translates to "crazy burst". I named my build as such in honor of the Japanese Ninja that inspired the creation of Shen and the ridiculous about of burst damage Shen dishes out with this build. I created this guide to help players improve their experience, gold, and item slot efficiency. The goal is to give the player options to do what is needed by the team. This ranges from burst to unkillable tank to carry tank. This build is extremely versatile and easily adapts to all team compositions.
Some editing needed since recent Shen buffs, but most of the guide is still very valid
What is a tank? A tank is a champion who absorbs damage in place of more fragile and harder hitting champions. There are several ways to accomplish this task.
1. Through the use of abilities such as Shadow Dash which forces an opponent to target you.
2. Pose enough of a threat to warrant attention and therefore focus fire.
3. So weak without mitigation that it is really easy to kill you. (Don't ever choose this option)
There comes a time when it is possible that as a tank, you become too tough to kill. So why bother? When a champion is too tough to kill, he/she gets ignored and is killed last. In drawn out fights, this is usually the case. At this point, the tank must acquire more DPS to maximize all the durability he has accumulated. This build addresses these issues of how to become a perfect tank. Shen embodies all aspects of a perfect tank. He is one of the few champions that possesses the durability, the damage, and the abilities to be a true, perfect tank.
In this guide, you will find the answers to these issues and create the perfect balance of items.
Air cuts through steel,
the blade stops;
from silent stone.
Death is preordained.
Pros / Cons
-High burst damage
-Great map control
-Good lane harassment
-Incentive to focus Shen
-Really inefficient jungle times
-Has trouble if behind in levels and gold
-Slightly less durable compared to Support Tank Shen builds
TeleportA highly versatile skill that will get you more gold, experience, and map control than picking up another summoner skill. When I speak of Gold and Experience, I am referring to the time spent traveling around the map, whether it is simply back to the pool to heal and buy items or to change lanes. This may not seem significant, but the small amount of time you save from traveling adds up in both a level and farm advantage in your favor. To accomplish this, map control is essential. Simply taking Teleport means there are 2 options to return to the fight. This means that your teammates can put pressure on an enemy tower while you solo push an opposite lane. Pressure does not mean engage, simply force the opposition to recognize there is a threat and mobilize to defend.
Practical Uses of Teleport:
1) Being able to go buy and buy item and return to the lane quickly. This gives you a marginal advantage of items over the opposing lane. As your small advantages start to accumulate, Shen will truly be a force to be reckoned.
2) Stand United is on cooldown, you teammates are getting dove upon by the enemy in the opposing lane, you teleport to a creep and flank, saving your teammates with a well placed Shadow Dash and even netting a kill.
3) You have Sight Wards placed in strategic locations (Golem/Lizard/Dragon/Baron). You see an enemy attempt to take it the Dragon (just 1 example), you are too far away to run and your Stand United is on cooldown when you have a teammate close enough to respond. You use Teleport to arrive with your teammates and 2v1 the fool who thought it was safe to kill Dragon.
4) Your team is pushing, but the enemy decides it would be better to not engage and has someone solo push and attempt to kill one of your towers. Use Teleport to get to that tower and save it. Your team engages in a team fight which you immediately join in on because of how Stand United works. The solo pusher is left stranded as his team is butchered and your team pushes hard to take advantage of killing 3+ champions.
GhostGhost makes it so nothing can get away from Shen. It also makes it so he can get away from anything he chooses. The combination of Ghost and Shadow Dash makes it so Shen can easily escape through the jungle with some creative use a Shadow Dashing through a wall. The use of Ghost makes it so Shen can safely push further than would be safe for other champions.
Ghost is also great for initiating when surprise is out of the question or when you want the surprise to be extra special.
The whole idea of these summoner skills it to enhance a major strong point of Shen. Map Control. This leads to more gold and exp for you and your teammates. Your enemies will farm in fear because you are nowhere and everywhere at the same time. They will be more timid in their farming and grant your team the mobility to successfully setup ambushes when the opposition thinks itself safe.
FlashSometimes there just isn't time to run up on a person or not enough space to run them down. This is where Flash can come in handy. Flash has become my preferred choice of Summoner spell for this reason and one other. Flash gets your out of really tight spots in a hurry. Even with the nerf to Flash, there are still many walls in which you can Flash over. The Permeable Walls Section of this guide should help out in locating these walls. With the latest changes, I believe the walls marked relatively easy can still be traversed.
ExhaustThis is not a I personally like to use, but I have seen it used to great effect by other players. This skill is a great skill to use both offensively and defensively. It can be used to weaken and hamper dangerous champions. It can also be used to help champions escape or to prevent one from escaping. I feel that this is worth mentioning since some Shen players don't care for the Teleport Summoner Skill. Please understand that Teleport is an important component of this particular build, but has insight which can easily be applied to other Shen builds.
The ideology behind my rune selection is to provide as much of an advantage to Shen as possible that is not readily available through other means such as items or champion abilities.
9 Attack Speed Marks
Ki Strike + Auto attack is essential to this build. With the new changes to Shen's Ki Strike, the Shen auto-attacks, the more often his Ki Strike will become available.
9 Flat Armor Yellow Seals
Standard rune set. It helps greatly when harassing and reducing minion damage.
9 Magic Resist / Level Blue Glyphs
Shen has decent base Magic Resist but more never hurts. Many AP mid champions now run a full flat magic resist page for middle lane now. Eventually, the enemy mid will come top to try and gank the Shen. This will not usually happen until post 6, so by then the MR per level glyphs should be at or past the breakeven point of efficiency.
3 Flat Health Quintessences
Shen's early game is very strong. The combination of a starting Ruby Crystal and Flat Health Quintessences will boost the new changes to Vorpal Blade healing and Ki Strike damage.
Vorpal BladeVorpal Blade is the ultimate harass skill when used in conjunction with quick-cast hotkeys. It makes last hitting a breeze. If you have a Sheen, the Vorpal Blade will be your main ability used to proc it during a fight.
***An important note for consideration***During the laning phase, it is important to not use Vorpal Blade on a minion when it is killable. This is a very important distinction that goes unnoticed even to high level players. A minion should only be killed when it is about to be killed by another minion. Killing it beforehand pushes the lane closer to the enemy tower. This makes you vulnerable to ganks from the jungle or other lanes. This concept is easily understood by most players.
However, there is something else which is often overlooked. It is only visible when Shen lanes with another champion. Shen has no problem last hitting when laning, but when he relies on his Vorpal Blade and Ki Strike damage to last hit a minion from half HP, he makes it extremely hard for his lane partner to get minion kills. The end result is both players competing for minion kills with abilities instead of using those abilities to harass the enemy. It is perfectly acceptable to use Vorpal Blade to get a minion kill that is too far away to safely hit with an auto attack.
FeintFeint is an underestimated skill but is very important to this build. Feint is important since the only option for healing comes from Vorpal Blade. The prevention of damage help to further the illusion that you are an unstoppable beast. To use Feint efficiently, it is important to know your enemies' abilities. Correct timing will mitigate damage and force enemies to waste resources in their pursuit of harassing Shen.
Shadow DashShadow Dash is pretty self-explanatory. Learn the terrain and know which walls can be Dashed through. All jungle monster spawns have at least 1 wall in which it is possible to dash through. Learn these locations. There have been many times where I have saved teammates by turning around during a retreat to attract attention from an ally. The enemy will cease pursuit of a possible kill to what seems like a sure kill. By using these dash locations, it is very likely that Shen will escape as well.
Please see the map below in the Permeable Walls Section as a reference to dash locations.
Stand UnitedStand United is seen as a defensive save your teammate skill. With good coordination, it can be used to gank offensively rather than routing an opponent during their gank.
Ki StrikeSome opponents really underestimate Shen's passive, Ki Strike. In a direct fight against non-carry champions, Ki Strike is what will make Shen emerge victorious. Ideally, hit and run works best with Ki Strike. An opponent who is chasing only gets a few isolated auto attack off on Shen. This helps to charge up Ki Strike without taking too much damage. This is the most efficient way to fight with Shen. To run away and pretend being scared, but immediately turn around when Ki Strike is up to unleash death and destruction. Many times greedy opponents who chase a low HP Shen will be met with swift death because they underestimate Ki Strike and Feint to allow Shen to simply turn around and deal a killing blow.
I have created a map of Summoner's Rift which showcases the walls that can be dashed through with Shadow Dash. This may be used for other champion skills and even the Summoner Skill Flash. Please note, with the latest changes to Flash (namely the reduction is flashing distance), many walls cannot be traversed. The moderately hard walls almost all inaccessible to Flash now after the changes.
Yellow - Easy to execute.
Orange - Moderately difficult to execute.
Red - Very Hard to execute. Very little room for error.
Shen's starting item should be a Ruby Crystal. The Ruby Crystal does not give Shen long term sustainability in the lane. It is a riskier start because a Doran's Shield gives both armor and extra health regen. The Ruby Crystal allows Shen to do slightly more damage with his Ki Strike[ and have a higher base HP value. It also allows him to be more gold efficient. Gold efficiency is very important because the complete Shen build is VERY EXPENSIVE to fully complete and in 95% of your games, never will be completed. The drawbacks to taking a Ruby Crystal are offset by taking Teleport as a Summoner Spell.
Your first trip back needs to be at either at 500 gold (if you are really being harassed in a tough lane), 925(500+350+75) for a Heart of Gold, Boots of Speed, and a Sight Ward or some combination of these items. The ward is absolutely necessary to continue to lane without being ganked. I wouldn't stay in the lane much longer unless you are absolutely dominating and farming great. But don't stay too long. You want the gold generation from the Heart of Gold as soon as you can get it. 10 minutes should be the latest. The longer you stay in a lane and win, the more likely the enemy team will see you as a threat and come gank you. This is why you go back too the pool quickly, buy your items, teleport back to the lane, and place the ward. You'll miss probably 1 to 3 minions from the wave of minions at most.
The only boots Shen should ever get are Mercury's Treads. They are a requirement on Shen. Why only Mercury's Treads? Simple. Because there is no such thing as a game with no crowd control or magic damage. Eventually, someone gets a Phage or Frozen Mallet. Currently, the really strong early lanes have mostly magic damage based harassment. Examples of this are Vladimir and Malphite. Shen can potentially solo these champions. It is important to finish the boots early when faced with early magic damage. The combination of the Heart of Gold and Mercury's Treads gives Shen much needed early game damage mitigation.
The next item Shen should buy is either a Sheen or a Giant's Belt. Both have similar costs with the Sheen being only slightly more expensive. The rationale on which item to get depends on how well the game is progressing. If the enemy has at least 2 fragile champions, a Sheen would be ideal help eliminate them from a fight early. Getting a Sheen first usually occurs more often when a Shen is solo. Alternatively, when the enemy has a high amount of burst damage or just damage in general, survivability takes priority over damage and a Giant's Belt should be purchased after the Mercury's Treads. If the Giant's Belt is purchased first, it is sometimes prudent to purchase some more mitigation like a [Chain Vest or a Negatron Cloak before a Sheen can be purchased. The alternative to these damage mitigation items would be another Giant's Belt. Economically speaking, it is sometimes better to grab two Giant's Belts rather than completing one into either a Sunfire Cape or Warmog's Armor. This is because HP on Shen allows him to both increase his durability, by simple virtue of having more heath, and the mechanics of his passive, Ki Strike.
At this point in the game, an analysis of the game's champion composition and incoming damage type must be conducted. By Mid-Game, Shen should have completed his Heart of Gold, Mercury's Treads, a Giant's Belt, and either a Sheen or damage mitigation item such as a Chain Vest or Negatron Cloak. This is the most crucial point in Shen's build. Choosing the right set of gear at this point in the game will mean the difference between being a poor tank or an awesome tank. Consideration about how well you have been farming will weigh into your decision on when to pick up a Sheen. Good farm means a Sheen is easily affordable, but a difficult lane will mean the Sheen will come after the Giant's Belt and damage mitigation item. I understand what I am saying is repetitive, but it's so important that I needed to say it multiple times. There is no set build order for this build. Every game is different. Farming, gold income, damage types, incoming burst damage, and team composition all factor into which item will maximize Shen's durability and damage output.
The rest items should fall into place quite easily. It is most item efficient for Shen to fill all his item slots with a major item component with each of the items that he intends to complete. This lets Shen stay on the field for long durations without having to return to the pool until he has about 1900 gold to finish up an item.
A Warmog's Armor usually comes before or after a Trinity Force depending on whether or not Shen needs more survivability or damage output. The very last item that I purchase on Shen is usually a Randuin's Omen. The reason why this great item is last is because this particular Shen build is so expensive (and rarely completed), that every scrap of gold that Shen can scrounge must be saved. It is sometimes justifiable to get an earlier Randuin's Omen depending on the needs of the game.
This particular way to itemize Shen allows him to be balanced with the option to adapt quickly to the needs of the battlefield. Whether Shen needs more armor, magic resist, or team fight debuffs, this build allows for flexibility to choose the path towards victory.
The Heart of Gold is a placeholder item. When an alternative item that is not normally apart of this build is required, the Heart of Gold can be sold early to open up a slot as all the other items are required on Shen. An example of an alternative item on Shen is the Thornmail. It is a great item when the enemy team composition is heavily favored toward physical auto attack damage.
Another alternative item is the Guardian Angel. The Guardian Angel is only really useful when Shen is the only initiator for team fights and is consistently getting killed in major fights. Once again, the Guardian Angel will replace the Heart of Gold.
Why a Sheen?
Sheen is the only DPS item viable on Shen that is both inexpensive and scales well into late game. Even with the most recent nerfs to Sheen by the removal of the Reservoir System, it is still a great item on Shen. Sheen increases Shen's damage output substantially, allowing him to farm more efficiently. That's not all however, a Sheen makes Shen do crazy burst damage. Ki Strike + Vorpal Blade + Auto-Attack + Sheen Proc = is the formula for 1/3 to 1/2 of a fragile champion's HP. It surprises people how much damage this does. It puts the fear of Mutha-Fu***** Shen in them. If they fear you, they are already good as dead. This defeatist mentality must be portrayed in how you play him. This is why it's important to pick up at least 1-2 levels in Feint.
Shen's harassment combo goes as followed:
Ki Strike + Sheen Proc + Auto Attack
Vorpal Blade + Auto Attack
Walk away unscathed.
At this point, be in a slightly aggressive position to solidify the damage and let the fear and awe soak into your opponent. Wait for your energy to refill, repeat until enemy is dead or gone. It is important to remember that Ki Strike needs to be up before or as you Shadow Dash for some burst damage.
Should the game continue to become a really late game. The Sheen can be easily upgraded with 2800g into a Trinity Force. It is not advisable to upgrade the Sheen into a Trinity Force unless Shen exceedingly difficult to kill. Generally, this means that a Sunfire Cape and Force of Nature are priority over the Trinity Force.
Shen does well in terms of farming during the laning phase thanks to Vorpal Blade and Ki Strike. This allows him to easily last hit minions without the risk of ally minions killing them. The downside of this is that Shen's laning partner will suffer a lack of minion kills if Shen relies too heavily on these 2 skills to last hit. A truly good Shen will be able to last hit without resorting to Ki Strike and Vorpal Blade to burst down a minion.
Although these two skills alone are sufficient for the laning phase (early game), it's not enough for mid-game and late game. The addition of the Sheen's unique ability acts as a pseudo Ki Strike on a shorter cooldown. This single item increases Shen's farming speed by over 50%. A Sunfire Cape is another great addition to Shen's farming efficiency. All these tools are important for Shen to quickly push a lane while his team applies appropriate "pressure" elsewhere on the map.
Matchups and Laning
In this section, I will be highlight and explaining tactics to use against certain champions who are difficult or tricky to fight and how to most effectively combat them. All of these examples will primarily be focused in 1v1 situations to keep it simple. Application of this knowledge can be still be used in more complex situations and team fights. I will not be able to list all available champions but I will gladly add in champions upon request.
AkaliAkali can potentially be a difficult champion for Shen to fight. Akali's Mark of the Assassin has a longer range than Shen's Vorpal Blade. Akali will generally win most combat exchanges with Shen. To lane well, Shen must play conservatively with properly time Feints to mitigate damage and last hit as much as possible while staying in experience range. During fights where Shen is not alone, Akali will tend to use her Twilight Shroud to evade attacks. Shen must try and predict where she is likely located and use Shadow Dash on that location. Overshooting the location will mean that Akali is too far away to auto attack Shen and will not come out of stealth. Only attempt this when it would not be disadvantageous to spare the energy should the Shadow Dash miss its mark.
AlistarGenerally, Shen has little problems dealing with an Alistar because Shen can easily stay out of range of Alistar's abilities. However, be aware of truly skilled Alistar players who are able to Headbutt and Pummel simultaneously. The Headbutt allows Alistar to close the distance quickly and the Pummel knocks Shen into the air for a small duration. The combination of the two techniques allow Alistar to essentially harass and walk away. As always, be wary of Alistar's Flash + Pummel combo. It can be used to knock Shen or his allies out of position easily. A timely Shadow Dash may save a teammate.
AniviaAn important note about Anivia is that her Q ability is a skill shot but still does damage to all targets it passes through. It it essential to dodge perpendicular to the movement of the ice projectile to avoid being stunned. Be wary when caught in Anivia's Ultimate. If caught, immediately use Feint as most Anivia will followup with an Icicle.
AmumuWithin the lane, Shen will have a clear advantage in terms of harass and the ability to kill minions. Most Amumu will jungle and will only show up in the lane for ganks and team fights. Be wary of changes in your opponents' movements. Aggressive posturing may signal an incoming gank. It may not be necessary to retreat, but position accordingly so that Amumu's Bandage Toss will not strike directly. It is never a good idea to go toe-to-toe with an Amumu because of how the mechanics of his Despair ability. Use the hit and run tactic to strike when Ki Strike and Feint are available.
AnnieShen should not have much trouble against an Annie. After completing the Heart of Gold, it is imperative that you quickly finish your Mercury's Treads as soon as possible. The magic resist and stun duration reduction are key to combating this champion. Because of the speed of Annie's Q ability, it should not be too difficult to have Feint ready to absorb some of the damage. Watch the cooldowns on Annie's ability to judge when to Shadow Dash for some free burst damage. Follow the harassment techniques outlined in the Sheen section to cripple Annie.
AsheA skilled Ashe player will be able to stay mostly out of Shen's range when properly utilizing her Frost Arrows and Volley to slow Shen's approach. Ideal tactic include using minions as a shield to avoid taking damage from Volley. If Shen is able to Shadow Dash to Ashe, she will most likely being to retreat. Be wary that she is not baiting you for a gank.
BlitzcrankThrough correct positioning, Shen can avoid being pulled by Blitzcrank's Rocket Grab. However, this does not mean other players may be so lucky. It is sometimes necessary for Shen to purposely move or Shadow Dash in front of Rocket Grab intercept and save a team mate. If Shen is lucky, he will be pulled into a low HP Blitzcrank who was hugging his tower while escaping your teammate. It's like giving a free kill to Shen.
Cho'GathShen has superior early game harass over Cho'Gath due to his limited mana capacity. The only way Cho'Gath can mitigate Vorpal Blade harass is to utilize his passive, Carnivore, and quickly kill the creeps in the lane. This makes Cho'Gath overextend in the lane and opens up opportunities for a gank.
MalphiteMalphite can be a tough lane for Shen. Be aware, that Shen cannot be a Malphite that gets mana regen. Most Malphite that take a Doran's Shield to the lane. These can be beaten by Shen. The more mana regen a Malphite has, the harder he is to fight as Shen. To beat a Malphite, it is important to Feint Malphite's Seismic Shard and to throw Vorpal Blades whenever possible. Avoid auto attacking him direction unless he just used Ground Slam to damage the minion wave. This is your opportunity to Shadow Dash and hurt him. Be aware of your energy pool because you do not want to let his opportunity go to waste. Remember not to let Malphite get 8 seconds of no damage after his armor breaks. This is the best time to make him take damage.
SionSion is another tough match-up for Shen. There are some important things to remember when facing a Sion. His shield is one of his most potent forms of damage. Many players simply run in fear when his shield is up. It is important to bring the fight to him early before he gets too many levels in his stun and shield. The more mana he wastes while levels 1-3, the better chance you actually have of beating him. Beware of bush usage. It is almost always better to let Sion's shield expire before reengaging him at this point. Another point worth mentioning is that part of Sion's minion wave control strategy revolves around obliterating a creep wave and backing out while letting Shen's tower kill the minions. This forces your wave of minions to push quickly towards his tower where he continues the cycle. Feint is an important skill to hold off the minion wave outside your tower's kill-zone. Try and keep the wave as neutral as possible, with a little push towards your tower. The better you hold the wave towards your tower, the more likely Sion will not be able to get farm safely.
VladimirVlad is one of toughest match-ups for Shen that he can actually beat. It usually involves a gank, but a Sheen is a requirement to actually 1v1 a Vladamir. It is important to focus more points than usually into Feint to mitigate Transfusion damage.
This Shen build does not play the same as Support Tank Shen. There is a distinct difference in how these builds conduct a team fight. The build bobs and weaves with a team fight. A Support Tank Shen will enter a team fight and stay in the fight. My Shen build tends to enter a team fight burst damage and receive focus fire and run out of the fight when Shen gets low. A Support Shen is durable enough to stay in the fight and leave at his leisure.
It is important to know when to enter a fight and when to leave it. If you are doing well, the enemy will hate your guts and WILL focus you. This is desired because you are a tank. It is your job. Remember when exiting a fight, never completely remove yourself from the action. Only stay far enough away to stay safe but always ready to reenter the fray to assist your teammates at the next best opportunity. This is the main reason why Movement Speed Quintessences are very important.
Mid-game and late game require teamwork and most of all, participation. If a champion is not present, they are not participating. This is where Shen shines. A Shen is able to continue to farm and push a lane while teammates provide sufficient pressure down a lane to attract the enemies' attention. The meaning of "pressure" is to push the lane in a manner to pose a potential threat to a vital point, usually a tower, but refuse to engage in an actual fight. By occupying the enemies attention, Shen can safely push a lane and even take a tower. With the strategic placement of wards, Shen can observe the enemies' approach and withdraw to a safer location.
If your team is engaged while exerting pressure, Shen can use either Teleport or his Ultimate, Stand United, to quickly join the fight. A Shen who is pushing a lane while his team exerts pressure must be acutely aware of the enemies' movements. A misstep could result in an uneven fight against your team. Careful consideration must be taken into account of the enemies' strength before this map control strategy can be implemented.
Sight Wards are the main source of map control during gameplay. They play an important role in the unorthodox use of the Teleport Summoner Skill. They allow Shen to use Teleport to get to fights when Stand United is on cooldown.