Shen Build Guide by Brugriff
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Choose Champion Build:
Standard Shen Top
+10% Attack Speed
+8 Magic Resist
+8 Magic Resist
+10% Attack Speed
+8 Magic Resist
+8 Magic Resist
+1-10% CDR (lvls 1-18)
+15-90 HP (lvls 1-18)
+10% Attack Speed
The purpose of this guide is to teach all of you lower-ranked players the joys of Shen, who I main and have done since I had the BE to buy him. High ranked players won't find anything innovative or new to them here but let's be real no Challenger tries to learn how to play from Mobafire guides anyway. I hope you enjoy the read and it helps you on your way to being a true ninja - even if the archetypal ninja isn't a tanky bruiser like Shen is. The focus will be on Shen Top but I will touch on him in the support role, too.
Why, then, should you play Shen? Simple, really. If you're at a low elo then your goal shouldn't be to just climb without thought - your goal is to get better at the game. Do so and you'll climb naturally. A lot of the mid-assassin One-Tricks you'll see in your games will be hardstuck at their rank for a while, because they fail to learn the importance of concepts beyond killing their enemies. And Shen is the perfect teacher of a variety of LoL mechanics.
Top Lane Shen revolves around a concept called Split Pushing which is one of those easy-to-learn but hard-to-master things. The basic principle is that while your allies are busy doing one thing such as pushing mid or taking dragon, you are pushing a side lane and threatening towers. This forces the enemy to either commit resources to stopping you pushing or commit to a fight and risk losing their buildings. There's a tonne of nuances and decision making about this that I will go into later but that's the core concept of it - and it's one of the most important things to know about in all of League. Countless games in casuals and the pro-scene are won by split-pushes. What makes Shen so spectacular at this is, and I'll mention this a lot, his ultimate and it's global range. If the enemy team tries to stop you from pushing then you can simply join in the teamfight with your R and make a 4v4 a 5v4.
As well as this he's a fairly forgiving champion who, by enabling his allies, can mitigate your own failings or the mistakes you made earlier in the game. Even if you lose your lane badly you can still show up to save your ADC from a gank and help him carry. Even if you've fed early game you can still be a threat on one side of the map while your team is on the other. Even if you have bad farm you can still land a clutch taunt in the middle of a teamfight and win it because of that. Pair that with his entire playstyle forcing you to learn map awareness and macro and he's a decent champion to start with and to get better at the game with.
- Global reach
- Hard to gank
- Needs few items to function
- Reliant on teammates
- Not the strongest laner
- Requires good map awareness to get the most out of him
A quick look at the website lolalytics shows us that Shen's winrate is below 50% but don't be disheartened by it. Like I said previously he's not the best champ in the game and he'll take some practice yet you can still win with him, and honestly at low elo your macro and game knowledge is much more important than the champ you're picking.
Don't die. That just about sums up your laning phase early-on. This is the biggest thing you have to keep in mind. One, single, death gives your opponent complete lane control and can really screw you over for the next few minutes. Now by this, I'm not saying play super cautiously and stay behind your minions and get no CS. Ward the river when you get the chance and keep an eye out for ganks. Do not go over-aggressive on your opponent because 1v1 you have no kill potential. Trading is difficult thing to put into writing because it's mostly about your own personal matchup knowledge and knowing you and your opponent's limits. That said, once you hit level 3 and get your W trading becomes much better. You'll chunk their health down, get a grasp proc, and dodge about two autos worth of damage. If the enemy is playing hyper aggressive and starts standing inbetween your ranged and melee creeps then go for the taunt - minions do so much damage early on and this will be very painful for your foe when they have a whole wave beating on them for a couple of seconds.
Use of your passive is what separates the good from the great. The shorter the distance between you and your spirit sword the faster you will get your shield, so keep it close. When the enemy comes in close to try and poke you can pop your Q and negate the damage they dealt - wasting their time and mana and possibly giving you a chance to trade back favourably. Positioning the sword is key - remember, if it travels through the enemy the CD on the shield is halved. You won't always be able to proc this but it's important you're aware and keep it in mind for when the opportunity arises.
Lane control and wave manipulation is VITAL if you want to be a successful top-lane player. It's not something I will go into here and there's a tonne of guides and tutorials for it here and on Youtube and such, so read up and learn to bring the lane into a beneficial state. You struggle to CS under tower early on and because you lack innate waveclear you may find yourself shoved in a lot so it's super important you learn how to kill minions while being shot at by turrets:
Melee Minions: Take two turret hits and then can be stabbed for gold.
Ranged Minions: You gotta be quick. From full health, hit it once then let the turret hit, then you should be able to get the kill.
The moment you hit 6 your game becomes something else entirely. Keep a constant eye on the map and get ready to teleport into the fray. It's important, once you get your ulti, that you do not taunt in lane because you want to save it. The two kinds of situations to teleport into are:
- Your enemy jungler's gank
- A trade going badly
The first is pretty easy to spot. You get a big fat face appearing mid or bot on your map and it should set off alarm bells in your head. Ult onto whoever's getting gone-on and save the day!
The second is a bit harder to spot and will require you actually checking on your allies with your camera because you can't see health bars on the map. If the midlaners are dueling and there's kill potential, get in there and make it a 2v1 and grab the kill. Did the enemy Blitzcrank just land a hook on your ADC and their Jhin is blasting them? Get over there and make it a 3v2 and save your ally and possibly turn the fight around.
There is, of course, a problem. When you ult you leave the lane, and hand the enemy top complete control of the lane. This is why you take teleport. As soon as you've finished the fight elsewhere on the map you need to get to lane ASAP. I try my best to save the TP for post-6 action and you should, too. Sometimes you can't help but use it early on but do your best. Try and communicate with your Jungler if you can to get them to cover top while you're away.
Shen's time to shine is the midgame, where damage isn't so high as to destroy your ulti's shield before you arrive to save lives, and your team should still have towers up to push out from. By now you should have your Tiamat, your Sunfire, and your boots and you're ready to split-push. Or are you? Here are a few rules:
1. Only split when your ulti is ready or will be soon, the whole point of this hinges on it. If it's not going to be up for another two minutes then you're better off sticking with the bulk of your team.
2. Choose your lane based on objectives. If your team wants to take Herald or Baron then you should be pushing Bot Lane, so that the pressure is spread out and it presents a binary choice for the opponents. Same with Dragons - go top if your team wants that. If none are up then look at the state of the creep waves and health of enemy towers. You do not want to be pushing too deep past the river when there is nothing to be gained from your risk and your allies aren't also pushing elsewhere.
3. Vision. Knowing where the enemy is is paramount to a successful split-push. You shouldn't be hammering into their Bot Lane tier 2 unless you have the jungle well warded so you can see approaches and you have vision of enemies on the map elsewhere.
Death timers are long so keeping your friends alive matters even more. Both ADCs have their items and are ready to pop off, both junglers are able to one-shot squishy champs and the map is much darker because there are less towers. With any luck your play in the midgame has enabled your team enough to win the game from here because now your shield isn't the impenetrable barrier it once was and taunting three enemies in a teamfight is likely a death sentence for you. Yet, you are far from useless.
Keep split-pushing. It's more important now than it was before. Hit TAB often to keep an idea of objective timers in your head because play at this point should revolve around that. Basically, with your side-lane pushes you want to be putting the enemy into a position where they either lose a tier 3 tower or inhibitor and take an objective, or they force you back and save their buildings but lose Baron. The three rules still apply now.
NOTE: At this stage in the game, if you use ult on an ally that gets caught out then they will most likely either:
a) Die before the channel completes.
b) Die after you arrive, and you may also die.
Both outcomes are bad and both are a waste of your ult. You're going to have to make some tough calls now, deciding who can be saved and when you're better off letting them die so you can continue pressuring sidelanes. This is something only experience can teach you.
An Introduction To Itemization
As with any other champion, how you spend your gold on Shen varies wildly game to game based on:
Your team composition
Enemy team composition
As you load into the game the first thing you should do is take a look at who you're going to be laning against because this is the first thing you should be looking to counter and is the first thing that will influence what you buy. Ask yourself these questions:
Are they AD or AP?
How good is their level 1?
At what point can I expect to get all-in'd?
How strong is their push?
What do they hope to do in the mid/late game?
Once you have the answers, you'll have a rough idea to build! This, however, is fluid. If the enemy team is 4 AD 1 AP, but their 4 AD champs fed and aren't a threat whereas their 1 AP champ is popping off and carrying then you will get far more value, and have a better chance of winning, by investing in MR despite the fact that their team comp is heavier on AD. All in all it's quite a complex subject especially on paper
What follows is a more indepth breakdown.
Items In Lane
As the top of the page suggests, you make your very first choice regarding itemization the moment you load in. It's not a hard choice though so don't worry too much. The standard Dorans + Pot start will get you by regardless but if you're facing a Kennen, a Teemo, a Jayce or anyone who's going to poke you out early from the very start then investing in Beads + extra pots will help get you by until your first back.
After that you've a few options: Against bruisers such as Renekton or Kled, who are going to try and all-in you with autoattacks, it's best to rush a Bramblevest as a first, early item. This is very good armour early on and will help you survive as well as act as a deterrent against the dreaded all-in. You'll probably want to keep this as a component until later in the game rather than rushing the full Thornmail. It's great value in certain matchups!
Your second option is Tiamat. This is absolutely VITAL to Shen because you lack any waveclear in your kit so you're going to be getting this at some point in the game regardless. You may want it early on, as a first item, against champs that will hard-push you and force you to clear under tower e.g. Rumble. It's passive will help you lasthit and will help hold the enemy laner's push. Don't forget the active! It acts as an auto-attack reset, meaning you can attack > Tiamat > attack in rapid succession. Especially good with an empowered Q!
(Author's note: Bamis/Sunfire Cape is a viable alternative especially if you are very new to the game but I prefer Tiamat. It's less passive, more offensive, and works better especially early on.)
Up next is Spectre's Cowl, the MR option. You want this first against a Teemo because you're going to need to tank up fast in order to even have a laning phase. Health, MR, HP regen... All things needed to survive super hard AP-based matchups. You should go Tiamat second item after you get your Visage.
Then comes Refillable Potion. It's very cheap and effective into losing matchups to help you sustain and stay in lane longer. Doesn't set your first item back too much so it's definitely worth picking up when you're losing lane.
Finally, boots. You want the basic version after your first early-game item, for example Tiamat > Boots. The choice for tier 2 simple. Ninja Tabis VS AD, Mercury's Treads VS AP. Whether you get these before or after your first item depends on how your lane is going. If you're struggling a lot you should get the appropriate tier 2 boots ASAP because they are cheap and effective for countering the enemy laner.
You survived the laning phase! So what about your first and then second item? This is where things get more complex and branch out down many roads. As Shen, nine times out of ten, your role on the team is to splitpush, tank, and peel for your carries so you need to buy the appropriate items to allow you to do those things. Crit, for example, is useless on Shen. Don't do it.
Against most enemies you cannot really go wrong with Titanic Hydra as a first item especially if you ended up going tanky component items + tier 2 boots earlier. That way you'll be hard to kill already at this stage of the game and you can afford to get the Titanic to help you farm quick and push faster.
If things are going wrong and you think you'll just end up feeding by pushing sidelanes alone then you're better off grabbing a tank item after your Tiamat. Itemize against whatever the current, biggest, threat is. You'll want Randuins against crit, Thornmail against non-crit AD, and Adaptive Helm against AP. If you went Titantic Hydra then those are the three options for a second item, and if you had to tank up immediately then you can probably go Titanic next.
So, you got yourself a tank item + Titanic. Once more, when looking to purchase your final items you need to look at the enemy team and decide what to do next. Say you went Randuin's first but the enemy ADC, AD jungler and AD toplaner are still big threats. Then, in that case, you'll want more armour in the form of Deadman's Plate or a Thornmail. After that you may find that the enemy AP mid is chunking you down so you want to grab an Adaptive Helm.
Building a tank-champion is an arms race and generally speaking you're behind in said race. Enemy damage dealers tend to rack up gold faster than you so you are forced to react and itemize against their threats in an effort to neutralize their damage output. Always be looking at what the enemy team is building and see who's doing the most damage and getting the most kills because that, more than anything, is going to affect what you need to buy.
You're playing a fairly passive support so make sure your ADC is aware that you aren't going to be looking for constant picks. Your goal is to keep them alive and safe and farming, not to get early kills. Push the lane with your Relic Shield and keep the river warded so you're aware of potential ganks. Focus on keeping your buddy alive above everything else and you have some decent tools to accomplish that with.
Continue babysitting your ADC but keep an eye out on the map for potential ult-targets. If the other three team members look to be taking a fight somewhere and your ADC is in a safe-ish position then go dive in with the lads. Your purpose in a teamfight is to be disruptive and obnoxious, forcing the enemy to pay attention to you while leaving everyone else alone. Taunt their backline, make them miss important auto-attacks and chunk them with your Spirit Blade attacks.
All tanks fall off late game once the enemy team completes their damage items. This is fine, this is expected. Your job is the same as it was in the midgame - you'll just take more damage. Always stick with your teammates and keep objectives warded properly and carry on doing what you were before. Taunt the enemy to stop them killing your friends, evade the nasty stuff like Jhin's fourth auto. While your ulti has global range at this point you will find yourself using it fairly close up, diving to a bush to providing a shield for your ADC a few inches away. Sometimes it's worth it to go Tiamats as a final item to splitpush like a Top Shen would but I don't advise this unless you're amazing at the game.
As a champ with global presence it's important you communicate things. Vital. Paramount. When your ult is up, ping it so your allies know you have it. Make them aware that their safety net is ready to catch them, this will embolden your team and cause things to happen on the map. Your Talon Mid will feel much more comfortable going for an all-in on their opponent, for example. The reverse is also true. Ping that it's on CD after you've used it so your other teammates are aware that you won't be able to help them if things go south.
My next point is going to sound callous but it's how you're going to win. We all have bad games, we all make mistakes, and as you learn Shen you're going to make plenty just like everyone else. What I'm saying is no one on your team is going to play perfectly. Now, your champion has the power of life and death on a 120 second CD. Decide who's worth saving. Is it better to use it on your 1/7 Rengar who got caught out in the enemy jungle yet again or would it be more beneficial to save the spell for when your 4/0 mid laner gets ganked in a few moments? Your job is to enable your allies, so you want to be saving people who will win you the game and not the ones that aren't contributing much. Identify the best player on your team early on and keep them in mind. No amount of shielding can untilt someone or bring them back into the game when they are 50cs behind their counterpart and have too many deaths to be relevant but shielding the guy who's performing like a superstar may well allow him to carry your team regardless.
To do list:
- Top Lane Matchups
- Make this all look a bit prettier