Shyvana Build Guide by SpikeThePike
[SEASON 9] Shyvana jungle total guide - The Most in DepthBy SpikeThePike | Updated on May 8, 2019
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+10% Attack Speed
+9 Adaptive (5.4 AD or 9 AP)
Start Hunter's Machete and W. Level your abilities W first, then E, then Q. Obviously R at 6, 11, 16 - Shyvana has one of the strongest ultimates in the game.
Basic mechanics: use Q for an auto-attack reset, and learn to move between auto-attacks to always stay on top of your target, this is essential to playing Shyvana well (practise this on the Rift Scuttler - it walks away from you after you hit it, but a Shyvana with W running should be able to stay right on it).
Follow this build path: Stalker's Blade - Bloodrazor -> Titanic Hydra -> Ninja Tabi -> Dead Man's Plate, you can't really go wrong with that build. And enjoy! Your final two items depend on the game: Spirit Visage -> Blade of the Ruined King in an average game, or something more defensive like Thornmail if an enemy is fed or against full AD.
Adapt the build to your own game. The basic build order assumes that your magic-dealing opponents are not a threat until after you have 3 complete items - most mages need AP items and magic penetration and levels before they become a serious threat - so magic defense (Spirit Visage) can wait until then.
You need to earn XP quickly in the first 10 minutes of the game. Shyvana can easily become 2 levels ahead of the enemy jungler, and she scales hard with levels and is hard to beat when she's ahead. You do this by focusing on farming early, using the most efficient routes, don't be afraid to farm the enemy jungle as well (which sets him back). You must farm ceaselessly all game, and also gather any XP which is free in lanes (for example while your laner backs).
- First 5 minutes: Farm jungle camps to level 5/6
- Do not waste early time ganking or trying to help lanes, because you can't do much (unless the setup is perfect) - it's better to get to level 6 faster. (If your laners complain, just tell them Faker doesn't gank before level 6 when he plays Shyvana.)
- If against a weak early jungler, you can do an invade at any level, best at levels 4-5-6 when you are probably already 1 level ahead of him
- Sneak a solo Dragon, you can take it easily from level 4
- 5-7 minutes: Gank when you have level 6, you are very strong in Dragon Form, counter-jungle, farm in both sides of the jungle
- Rush early boots, daggers and your jungle item for Smite
- By 10 minutes you should have the Bloodrazor enchantment completed, this gives a power spike
- Gank every time your ultimate is up - you should be already heading towards a lane whenever your fury bar is above 90%
- Help your team take the first turret for the gold bonus if not already taken, Shyvana is a good turret pusher (thanks to her Q auto-attack reset)
- 11-13 minutes: Buy Tier 2 boots, speed is important on Shyvana. Farm hard in both sides of the jungle, kill the enemy jungler, take opportunities when you see them (e.g. Rift Herald), cover the whole map
- 14-16 minutes: Join team fights as necessary, again try to time the fights for when your ultimate is up
- 17-20 minutes: Help your lanes more, take objectives: Outer Turrets, second Dragon, Rift Herald. Look for skirmishes, you can take down any opponent.
- 21-25 minutes: Pressure everywhere: split push, flank team fights, clean up, win.
Early game, your main task (apart from levelling up!) is to shut down the enemy jungler. So you steal camps, contest Rift Scuttlers, invade, counter gank, and generally make his life difficult. Late game, your role depends on how the game is going, you can split push, or anchor your team as a powerful bruiser (not a tank), or a bit of both.
Shyvana is tanky, but she's not a tank. She does not have the damage reductions and disables that true tank champions have. She is a high damage champion, with good base damage and scales very well with the suggested builds. You can build her with full tank items if there's nobody else to be your team's front line. But she's more powerful with a higher damage build.
Generally it is hard for opponents to kill a champion who is two levels ahead of themselves, and even harder if that's a Shyvana. If you can avoid any early deaths - you should be able to, as there's little reason why a jungler should die in the early game - and buy an early health item ( Titanic Hydra or Frozen Mallet) then Shyvana can build up a mystique in the eyes of opponents as "unkillable".
Titanic Hydra is best for low elo games or those typical solo queue games where you are not sure about your teammates and might need to 1 v 9: it is Shyvana's highest damage item if the active is used correctly in her combo (takes practice!) But for high elo games or premade 5 v 5 where you have competent teammates then Frozen Mallet is best, because it makes Shyvana more useful to the team overall: your nearby allies should be able to take good advantage of the permaslow. Some builds take both items!
Primary: Precision. Press the Attack - Triumph - Legend: Tenacity (or other Legends depending on game) - Last Stand
Secondary: Sorcery. Absolute Focus - Waterwalking
These runes give Shyvana unexpected early strength so you can do some effective ganking at levels 3, 4 and 5 even with no items. If you can make this work, you can start an early snowball: a Shyvana who gets ahead is hard to beat. The ganking strength comes from the bonus burst damage from Shyvana's full combo thanks to Press the Attack; and a damage steroid from Last Stand when Shyvana is on less than 60% health, which she usually will be when ganking (she can get very low on health, in early ganks).
Season 9 has nerfed Celerity, making it much less interesting for Shyvana than it was in Season 8 (it adds a small movement speed bonus when she has W up, but no damage buff). I recommend Absolute Focus instead, for some free AD (or AP if you follow an AP build) and a touch faster early clears: it buffs you when Last Stand is not buffing you.
The main change made in Season 9 is that rune stats are separate from rune paths. This frees you from the shackles of having to choose Precision to get the attack speed buff, you can explore other rune paths (more below). Of course Shyvana must take Attack Speed + Adaptive Force + Armor. Other weaker junglers take 2 Armor runes, but Shyvana does not need to do that.
I have experimented with several different rune builds, now that Shyvana no longer has to take the Precision path, and also am constantly looking at what some of the best players are taking and keeping an open mind for anything clever or sneaky. There are quite a few options which can work. Even so, the Precision tree still seems best, if you are following a mixed damage bruiser build as recommended here. Press the Attack suits Shyvana well, especially combined with Last Stand, in a fight it makes her final E into a powerful execute.
Runes in more detail
Shyvana scales best with attack speed - even though her abilities have some AD and AP scaling, her main damage comes from basic attacks and the bonus % health damage on her basic attacks (from E and, later in the game, from items). That's why I recommend the +10% attack speed rune stat over any other offensive choice. Early damage will also help Shyvana have a good and fast start, with faster farming and some ganking possibilities, so we take Adaptive Force as the center rune. For the defensive stat, early game armor helps every jungler.
In the Precision tree, you might think Lethal Tempo is good, giving high attack speed in fights against champions (the rune starts working 1.5 seconds after first damaging a champion, and Shyvana can do first damage with E, W or R). Yes, it is good in certain situations, for example where the enemy team has many tanks. But Press the Attack is usually a better keystone, giving higher burst damage as long as you can land three attacks. Shyvana needs attack speed for farming and big objectives, but burst damage when ganking and fighting champions - and Shyvana can access the third attack easily using her auto-attack resets from Q. This rune is a strong help when ganking, even early ganks before you have items, because it also buffs your ally's damage - a bit similar to the old Expose Weakness mastery which was good on Shyvana. It lets Shyvana win duels because her damage increases as the duel goes on. Again Conqueror seems like it would be good on a bruiser type melee champion who does sustained damage, but Shyvana shouldn't normally need too many attacks to kill an opponent and her AD scaling is not all that good.
Triumph is taken by almost every champion in the game, it gives a decent amount of healing every time you have a kill or an assist, which is so helpful in teamfights and works especially well on a high-health bruiser champion like Shyvana. (Note: Presence of Mind] is not available to her as she is manaless and her ulti availability depends on her Fury bar not cooldowns.) With Legend: Tenacity you will gain Tenacity as the game goes on which is a great free statistic for Shyvana - she can easily buy everything else, but Tenacity is hard to buy - and in a game where you need high Tenacity, it makes Mercury's Treads twice as effective. (But in a game where the enemy team has no CC and a lot of damage, like a Master Yi jungle opponent, Legend: Alacrity helps your farm so you get stronger faster, Legend: Bloodline helps your survivability.) Last Stand gives a noticeable damage boost when on less than 60% health, even better when on low health - this is great for Shyvana as she generally stays in fights even when she is low on health, due to her ability to continue dealing out sustained damage after opponents have already used everything they have.
Press the Attack and Last Stand work really well together, giving a combined damage bonus of over 20% on your damage in the middle and end of a fight. This works great for Shyvana who is a sustained damage dealer - and all these % damage buffs also enhance her on-hit damage. They make her Flame Breath long-distance nuke at the end of a fight very very dangerous to enemies. Shyvana is known as a strong duellist, and the combination of these runes ensures she should win just about any 1 v 1 fight (not Warwick in the early game).
There are various options for your secondary path. For offense, best is the Sorcery tree. Absolute Focus gives bonus AD when near full health: it's a buff to early farming and as the game progresses and Shyvana becomes tankier, she should be near full health at the start of every fight. For your other rune on this path, Scorch sounds so right on Shyvana :) and some damage after the enemy left the fight is always good, combine this with Red Smite, Red Buff and Ignite and you can deal out a surprising amount of hurt to an enemy who thought he survived. But unfortunately Scorch is weak early when you want it to count, and so actually I do not recommend it. Instead I take Waterwalking for fast movement speed in the river (you will be in the river plenty as a jungler) and bonus AD in the river. Other options: Nullifying Orb is good for a small amount of free protection against magic damage, this opens up your boots choices, so that you can have Ninja Tabi most games, and it also pairs well with Last Stand because it holds you alive for longer on 30% health. The other option is Gathering Storm for +5 AD at 10 minutes, +15 AD at 20 minutes, and much more at 30 minutes+: Shyvana's abilities scale with AD so it's not bad: fun at lower elo where games can last a long time. But in higher elos, most games don't go beyond 30 minutes meaning this rune never becomes very impactful, it's a rune which is basically insignificant before 20 minutes. In a competitive game it's not a good pick, you want to have advantages from your runes before 20 minutes otherwise the enemy team will already be ahead.
These were pretty much Faker's runes in Season 8, by the way.
For something different, the Inspiration tree basically offers free gold, in the form of Magical Footwear: that's free boots at 12 minutes (sooner if you do some successful ganking) and you don't have to go back to the shop for them, that's very nice. And +10 movement speed, better than Celerity. This means you can rush your jungle item every game without worrying about boots - meaning you get the power spike from the completed jungle item sooner. The rune has about 400 gold value, the same as getting First Blood every game. The Approach Velocity rune is very interesting if you follow a build bath with some slows (blue smite, Frozen Mallet, BotRK), giving you a movement speed boost towards your slowed target - doesn't sound like much but it works extremely well in-game if you try it, Shyvana shines with high movement speed. The other choice here is 5% CDR on everything (including on summoners spells and item actives) - that's a reasonable all round choice and Shyvana's manaless nature uses it well.
For yet another rune page option, you can try Domination / Precision. Hail of Blades for astonishing duelling capability + Cheap Shot for bonus true damage if you follow a Frozen Mallet or Blue Smite build path + Ghost Poro for bonus AD + Relentless Hunter. Again Triumph + Last Stand from the Precision true. With this build rush Frozen Mallet after your jungle item, the rune build amplifies the power of that item because of Cheap Shot.
Since patch 9.8 indirectly buffed tanky junglers (from a buff to Enchantment: Cinderhulk) I am also looking for a chance to try Aftershock on Shyvana. Although Shyvana only has one immobilise, that's the knockup from her ult, I think she might be OP with this rune as it would help her to hard engage with her ulti - similar to a Malphite ult but with lower cooldown... If you have tried Aftershock please leave a comment.
Pros and cons of the champion:
- Shyvana can outrank other junglers in levels and gold due to her incredible farm
- High damage for a tanky champion
- Her damage is consistently available: not limited by mana and cooldown on Q is low. This means you can kill two or three champions in succession (see video!)
- Takes objectives very fast
- She is a good duellist, she can 1 v 1 anyone
- She counters most other junglers, for jungle dominance
- Late game she is a strong counter to dangerous melee opponents like Zed, Yasuo, Master Yi, Riven, she can also easily handle all tanky top-laners
- Flexible build paths, she can build full tank, bruiser, or full damage as the game develops
- Fun nuke using her E in Dragon Form
- One of the best URF mode champions if she follows an AP build
- The main thing to watch is that she can't team fight successfully if her team has no CC: she will die quickly if locked down by grouped opponents
- Easily kitable by some opponents
- She can have bad games, if she has problems early so that she misses her normal advantage in levels and gold
- Cannot solo carry lost games, needs evenly matched teams.
Overall Shyvana's role is to:
- out-jungle the enemy jungler
- maintain strong objective control and map presence, she can take Dragons, Baron, Rift Herald, turrets and inhibitors very quickly
- clean up in team fights, using a flanking or counter-initiating style
- split push, and in general totally intimidate the enemy team with the threat of her presence.
Shyvana is not a good initiator (unless you have a well co-ordinated pro team, but let's face it, you don't). She is tanky but she is not a tank because she has no CC or damage reduction abilities. If you initiate against grouped enemies without a co-ordinated team, you will die quickly and waste Shyvana's massive damage potential. Shyvana can do consistent AoE damage, so it's best for her to counter-initiate: that means going in after the enemies already blew their cooldowns. Or with a co-ordinated team, you all go in together and the opponents have a choice: focus Shyvana while taking damage from your mid and ADC, or focus those other damage dealers while Shyvana's AoE shreds the whole team.
Riot call Shyvana a high variance champion, meaning that some games work out very well for her, some work out badly. That's true: she can't carry a losing team, if her laners all lose lanes then the game is likely lost. But part of the 'variance' Riot are seeing is because most players play Shyvana casually, thinking she is an easy jungler to play if your main jungler was banned - and casual players are going to see varying results. As noted already, in the hands of an experienced Shyvana player, who also has the sense to pick Shyvana with a team composition to match her strengths, she has a good win rate.
She's not a flashy champion who makes amazing outplays. She rarely achieves Pentakills (I only ever had one on her, screenshot below). She may not even have the highest kills on your team. But what she does do, is win games, because she's consistently one of the best champions for taking those fixed objectives like Turrets, Inhibitors, Dragon and Baron, she can reliably kill enemy champions, and she's a force to be reckoned with in any team.
I've only ever achieved one Pentakill with Shyvana, but you can find a few examples on Youtube: it's certainly possible near the end of the game if you've had a good game. (Theoretically, you could kill a whole enemy team at once with one of your AoE abilities, but they'd all need to be on low health first from your allies.)
I often add to this guide or update it with small tweaks (for example rune changes), so you might want to check for updates from time to time. It's a long guide with a lot to read: I suggest you look at the parts you find interesting, try it out in a game, and come back to read the rest if you want a deeper understanding of the champion.
First, the on-hit % health damage on a target marked by her E is increased, from 2.5% to 3.5%. Sounds like not much - only a 1% change - but it makes a real difference. Jungle clears will be faster from level 2 (once you have E) so Shyvana can slice through the jungle fast like she is supposed to. And later in the game, even a full tank build can do a fair amount of damage, and even a full AP build can take objectives reasonably quickly. I still recommend, though, the higher damage builds shown in this guide.
Second, she now takes dragons faster than ever - you will notice this most if you have to solo a dragon early, which is Shyvana's specialty.
Season 9 has introduced the new champion Sylas, with the tilting ability to steal other champion's ults. Shyvana is not immune to this - if he steals her ult he takes on Dragon Form and, temporarily, his Q, W and E are Shyvana's Dragon Form Q, W and E. Sounds overpowered? It's not really, because without Shyvana's tankier stats and damage items, he can't do much with it, and is easily killable. His best strat is to play like AP Shyvana, for as long as he can. The ult on him lasts about the same length of time as a true Shyvana's ult - his mana bar becomes temporarily like Shyvana's Fury bar though in his case it stays blue not red.
Patch 9.3 re-worked many of the crit items and introduced new item Spear of Shojin. This fun item is a bit like Trinity Force with more AD in place of the attack speed - so it gives damage, health and 20% CDR. OK, the item does not have the Sheen procs that Trinity Force gives. But instead, it has a unique passive when you use your ultimate, giving you boosted attack speed and reduced cooldowns (similar to old Essence Reaver prior to Patch 9.3). This is amazingly good on Shyvana in a game where you are carrying:
- Shyvana is already a terrifying powerhouse when she activates her ultimate and this gives her a significant further buff to that
- she usually ults into the center of a fight, so will benefit hugely from having higher attack speed for 6 seconds
- her E Flamebreath when she is in Dragon Form is perhaps her strongest ability, and this item reduces the E ability cooldown - so she can generally use E twice or even three times while in Dragon Form
- the name of this unique passive is ... ... Awakened Dragon
- Start Hunter's Machete + Refillable Potion
- Route: Red Buff (with leash) - Wolves* - Gromp - Blue Buff* and then take a Rift Scuttler and gank a lane or invade if you have enough health
- Back to buy two Daggers, also buy a Hunter's Talisman if possible as that will strengthen your W and provide more sustain. Always buy a Control Ward if you have enough gold
- Since Patch 8.8 you can buy an Oracle Lens early, this is very good for an invading jungler like Shyvana, and think of all the +30 gold from ward clearing
- Clear two more camps: Raptors - Krugs and any Rift Scuttlers which are alive
- Now is a good time to counter-jungle or possibly to gank - none of your camps is up, you have level 4, the enemy bot lane and jungler are probably still level 3. You can also take Dragon any time you see the enemy jungler on the top side of the map.
- Continue taking camps efficiently, to reach levels 5 and 6
- Back for Recurve Bow - if you have gold also upgrade your jungle item to Stalker's Blade
- You could buy a Long Sword here: Recurve Bow + Long Sword + Refillable Potion is a good item set at level 5 for ganking or taking Dragon
- Rush to complete Enchantment: Bloodrazor for a power spike in damage and clear speed
- Also look to build Tier 2 boots - normally Ninja Tabi
- It's best to complete Titanic Hydra next, unless you are behind and need defence early (delaying Titanic Hydra gives you a weaker mid game)
- Add a Cloth Armor or Null-Magic Mantle as needed depending on opponents
In the 'Lower Cost Build', start with Titanic Hydra first, the jungle item (taken second in this case) is Cinderhulk followed by an armor item, Wit's End against magic damage and finished with Blade of the Ruined King to keep your damage relevant in the late game, also good for Baron and the Elder Dragon. If your game goes well you can reach this full build by around 35 minutes. Switch boots to Ninja Tabi once the laning phase is over, those are normally the best late game boots.
Also look at adapting your build to the game.
General build approach
I like to build a good amount of damage on Shyvana. With the builds here, it's possible to do that and also have strong defences. The Season 7 re-work and the Season 8 runes have made damage builds even stronger.
People think Shyvana is a "tank", but she's really not. She is tanky which makes her a very robust fighter, but she has no special tank abilities and so she cannot absorb much damage for her carries without dying herself (and we don't want that!) Her kit is all damage focused.
Similar to Garen, the best way to play Shyvana is as a hyper bruiser, robustly dealing out damage that the enemy team are forced to group up if they want to stop her. So you can establish dominance and control the game. Shyvana can either anchor her team in 5 v 5 fights, or else split push and divide the enemy team: Shyvana with a damage build can take objectives extremely quickly if not stopped, and it usually takes two or three champions to stop her.
Junglers: the even match-ups
Junglers: the gap closers
Junglers: complete pains to deal with
Junglers: Off-meta AP
Jungling top laners
Laners: high mobility AD
Laners: high mobility AP
Laners: tough duels
Laners: crowd control mages
Laners: the kiters
Laners: the most dangerous ADCs
Laners: the classic ADCs
Laners: the ability ADCs
Laners: the highest damage mages
Laners: the escape artists
Laners: tanky CC
Which champions to ban in ranked?
Shyvana does not have any really hard counters, and she successfully counters some of the other champions who are considered to be strong. Overall I would pick out Vayne, Quinn, Caitlyn, Ashe and Graves as the opponents who generally give Shyvana herself the most problems, and Kaisa and Teemo - there's a theme here, all these are effective kiters. It's because each has self-peel abilities which make it hard for Shyvana to stick to them and apply her melee attacks for long enough to bring them down. Vayne is the worst late game ADC for a bruiser champion like Shyvana because Vayne does so much % health damage and her knockback means she can easily kill you if you're not careful, she also has enough mobility that she's problematic to gank early. Janna is a difficult enemy support. Here was a Valkrin game where he is against Graves, Caitlyn, Janna all in the same game, it's not really possible for a Shyvana to overcome that.
So you can look at banning one of those champions, when it comes to your choice about which champion to ban in a ranked game. Popular bans will probably be being banned by your teammates, so you can leave them to others. At high elo, if you are picking early, I suggest banning Vayne - even after all the changes in bot lane, she is still a champion with a terrifying late game and I think Vayne mains will still be taking her against tanky team compositions such as you will hopefully have when you play Shyvana. But if you are last pick, it's likely the enemy team will pick a different ADC because they won't know you take Shyvana, so in this case you can ban a different problem champion. At low elo, your allies will usually want to ban the hypercarry champions like Zed, Yasuo and Master Yi and that's OK, even though these are mainly squishy and little threat to Shyvana herself (Shyvana is a good counter to most of them), it's important to keep your lanes safe. Someone who mains these is usually hard for your laners to beat in low elo, and may be climbing ranked hard, possibly even a booster. For your own ban at low elo, you can ban one of the strong early junglers who scares your allies while being hard for you to counter-gank early, so maybe Vi, Twitch, Nocturne or Xin Zhao. Or just ban Kayle: at low elo, Kayle will usually stomp the game after level 11, because your allies don't know how to stop her.
It should not be necessary for a team planning on having Shyvana as their jungler to ban assassin type junglers like Kha'Zix and Rengar. Shyvana should be able to handle them and counter-jungle them fairly easily.
For other ban ideas, you can look at banning more of the champions who specifically counter your laners, so talk to your laners about who they want banned. Shyvana will have a tough game if one of her lanes loses lane hard, because she does not have time to be babysitting lanes. You want your allies to be safe and win lane.
If there is no tank on your team, then your team may expect you to be the tank, but that's not going to work without CC. For example, this would be a terrible team:
This team would be able to achieve nothing in a 5 v 5 team fight, and by late game your Kalista, Fiora, Vel'Koz would be complaining and saying "why don't you tank for us". But Shyvana is not a tank because she lacks the CC or damage reduction abilities which true tanks have. Shyvana is a heavy bruiser, similar to Garen: she deals out a large amount of damage and is difficult to stop 1 v 1, but she will still be melted if she is focused.
In contrast, this would be an excellent team:
So there's a very large amount of CC, and also all the lanes are safe laners. Shyvana is not the only tanky champion, there's a very solid front line for your Jinx. Other hard CC supports like Sona, Blitzcrank, Thresh, Nautilus, Braum, Alistar will also work well here, for similar reasons. Malphite support is a very good ally for Shyvana.
Shyvana pairs especially well with champions listed below. Look at your own game history and analyse them: chances are that your wins were when you had some of these on your team. Overall it's fairly simple: Shyvana does not have good CC, but she does great if she works with an ally who has CC.
Good single target CC
Area of effect hard CC
Area of effect disruption
Area of effect slow
Strong early laners
Tanks with CC
Tanky top laners
Shyvana's power is based on speed: so she clears camps fast, she moves fast, she takes Baron and Dragon fast, she kills fast, and she takes down towers fast. She earns gold fast in the early and mid-game. As long as she's ahead in levels, she will have a good game. The recommended builds here are designed to allow you to snowball off that.
Shyvana is quite an easy champion to learn in terms of her actual abilities. Her mechanics work very smoothly - her attacks are fast and none of her abilities has a long casting animation (W is instant). But to play her well calls for excellent strategic decision-making, map awareness and understanding of your own and enemy champions. Often you can play her remarkably aggressively, but sometimes you need to hang back and wait for your allies. Until you are experienced it can be hard to know which to do. So Shyvana has a high skill cap in terms of your game knowledge and understanding of team compositions - she benefits from good "shot-calling".
Shyvana's game will - of course - depend partly on the skill and quality of her lane allies and how well matched they are to their lane opponents. If your lanes need a lot of help, then Shyvana will have a weak game because time spent in a lane means a loss of gold and XP for Shyvana, even worse if she comes to help out in a counter-gank and dies. If your lanes are safe and steady, or winning lane without any help (thank you, all you Darius tops) then Shyvana can get on with with what she does best, taking efficient jungle routes so that she only ganks lanes when she is passing by.
Shyvana's best strategy early is to kill the enemy jungler 1v1. That takes the pressure off all your lanes without you needing to spend actual time in lane. It's also a big psychological advantage for your team, they will be thinking "our jungler better than the enemy jungler" - just the same way you want to see your allies winning lane. It helps to establish jungle dominance if the enemy jungler is a little bit afraid of you, and it's very easy to steal their camps when they are dead.
Shyvana in competitive matches
Back in Season 5, Shyvana was rarely seen in the LCS or other competitive play. Most competitive players took one of these 5 junglers: Gragas, Rek'Sai, Elise, Lee Sin or Nidalee. However, Cloud 9's returning captain Hai used Shyvana with a Devourer build in several LCS NA Summer 2015 matches.
Why damage and not full tank?
Shyvana is a versatile champion with many different ways to build her, from full tank, to full damage, or anything in between (there are also AP builds and hybrid builds involving some AP: these are normally troll builds). You can win with a full tank build if you have a team filled with carries, but it only works if you have a well-coordinated team. In solo queue I do not recommend it, and going full tank is wasting Shyvana's potential to semi-carry a game.
To maximise the potential of the high damage builds you might need to play Shyvana a little differently if you followed another build before. High movement speed and chainable slows from item actives allow her to stick to targets. It's important to be hitting opponents with those basic attacks and Qs, so you have to go in hard.
Without items, Shyvana does around 50/50 physical and magic damage, because her W, E and R abilities all do magic damage. But her melee attacks (including Q) do mainly physical damage. And her melee attacks do much higher damage than her abilities, once you have items. If you follow the builds recommended here and your end-game statistics do not show at least 60% of your damage to champions as being physical damage, it's a sign that you are probably not hitting opponents with enough basic attacks and Qs, and so not yet getting best advantage from the build.
Notes for allies
If you are Shyvana's ally here are some slightly tongue-in-cheek pointers to help you two play effectively together:
In dragon form, Q damages all opponents in front of you - similar to Ravenous Hydra - so make sure to face opponents when using it, if necessary walk around your target while fighting so you are facing in the best direction.
Season 8 nerfed the damage on this ability by approximately 10%, but it still deals all of Shyvana's on-hit damage twice. So on-hit builds are the way to go, not high AD builds.
Tips and tricks:
- Time your Q so that you activate it when Shyvana's prior auto-attack animation starts (before the attack hits) - this will give you the quickest Q following that prior auto-attack. You can practise to get the timing right, you will also learn Shyvana's attack sounds which can help you time it without thinking about it.
- You should always be using the auto-attack + Q combo, including when taking jungle camps.
- Due to the attack animation, realistically it needs around 0.25 seconds to get off an auto-attack + Q combo.
- The auto-attack + Q combo works against towers, you can take down towers very quickly with this.
- The auto-attack + Q combo allows you to kill any trinket ward when you see it being placed, you have 1 second to kill it which is enough time for Shyvana to do that even if your reactions are not the fastest.
- You do not need to be watching your champion fighting on-screen to activate Q, because it is not a targeted ability: you can time Q listening, or if you like, just press it whenever it comes off cooldown. This allows you to look elsewhere on the map while taking large jungle monsters or Dragon.
- In advance of a situation where you might only have time to get off one auto-attack on an enemy - for example tower-diving, or chasing an enemy who is about to cross the barrier into his base, or Flash-auto - and you really want that auto-attack to count, you can activate Q ahead of time. Then that first auto-attack on the target will be a double attack. (You might also want to use Attack Move in these situations so that the attack happens automatically as soon as you are in range - or if you have Flash, right-click the enemy, press Q, then Flash towards them, for an immediate Q attack as soon as your Flash brings you in range.) Shyvana in human form will have a fiery glow around her hands when Q is activated in this way, which lasts until the next attack.
In dragon form, Burnout's size increases to match the increased champion size.
Tips and tricks:
- Against high health targets make sure to attack many times while W is proccing, for example when taking a jungle camp you should wait to activate W until you are close to the camp so that you have W for the longest time while you are taking the camp (the basic attacks and Qs while W is proccing do more damage, attacks also extend the duration of Burnout up to 7 seconds).
- When crossing the map where you do not expect to encounter enemies, use W to increase your movement speed: the boost only lasts for 3 seconds before going on cooldown (because you are not attacking), but that is still helpful.
- Activating W does not interrupt you while moving or basic attacking so it is useful for a burst of movement speed just when coming in to gank: you want to move fast from the time you are first seen to the time you engage with the target. It takes practice to time this correctly so that you can close with the target and have Burnout still proccing while you do your crucial first auto-attack + Q combo.
- W is not a targeted ability, so while taking jungle camps you can activate it without watching your champion on-screen, allowing you to look around elsewhere on the map.
- W will continue damaging nearby targets even if you are crowd controlled (for example rooted or silenced), so if you are expecting to face crowd control, try to activate W before the crowd control hits. The ability activates instantly when you press the W button.
- After activating W, you can press B to go back and your W will continue damaging nearby minions during the B countdown: doing damage with W will not interrupt the B countdown so you can save some time (but if the creeps damage you, that interrupts the countdown, so if jungling you can only do this if the creeps are almost dead).
- Although W does not directly damage turrets, it's still a good idea to activate W when you are taking down turrets, because as long as it is proccing it buffs your basic attacks against the turret with extra on-hit damage; it also does damage to any enemy minion wave which arrives while you are taking the turret, meaning your own minion wave can survive longer.
- Advanced: the W damage is slightly delayed. This means the final proc from W can kill an opponent after you dies, and if an enemy uses an ability to move out of the range of your W flames, they will sometimes still receive that last proc of the W damage even when they are quite far away. For example you can see this on Rek'Sai, if she tunnels to get away from you, she can sometimes take a proc of W damage when she emerges from her tunnel, if your flames were touching her when she entered the tunnel. Possibly, this is an unintended bug. It does also mean that if you came late to a fight and your W flames only just touched an enemy before he died, you probably won't get an assist - use E if you want to be sure to have an assist.
In Dragon Form, Flame Breath explodes where it hits (either the first champion hit, or the target location if it hits no champion directly) and deals bonus magic damage as splash damage in a small area - this means its range is larger than you think. It is an excellent nuke for a target you otherwise cannot reach, and a hugely satisfying and fun ability for this reason. (A Shyvana who uses Flash-R-E can kill a low-health target from a distance of over 2000.) At level 6, it is your main source of damage in Dragon Form and an excellent ganking tool. It creates a circle of Scorched Earth on the ground which does damage over time to enemies who stand on it (similar to Morgana's W, but smaller in size), good to throw into any team fight. Enemies taking damage from Scorched Earth are automatically marked by Flame Breath, so against non-moving targets (for example Baron and Dragon) this Scorched Earth effect extends the duration of the Flame Breath mark by 4 seconds, so that your basic attacks against that target do bonus damage for longer.
Tips and tricks:
- I recommend you always smart-cast E, as you want to get it off quickly and instinctively.
- E interrupts your other orders - it will pause you while moving, for the duration of the casting animation - so do not be tempted to use this if you are chasing down an opponent, using it will likely allow him to get away. But you can use it for an execute, if he's on low health.
- For the same reason, unless dealing with a very slow-moving tank, it can be a bad idea to use E when coming in to gank, as it delays your attacking and it is more important to use the time to get off that first auto-attack + Q combo (which does way more damage than your E). Instead you save your E for ranged damage on the enemy later if he tries to escape at low health. Bear in mind that the Last Stand rune will probably be working to increase your E damage at the end of a fight.
- If you are expecting a long fight - for example against Dragon or a tanky opponent - you normally want to use E only when you are already within melee range and ready to fight, so that the bonus damage buff from E applies to as many of your basic attacks as possible.
- When jungling, Shyvana can use E to 'activate' camps before she arrives and draw the creeps out to save time. For example: approaching the enemy Red Buff camp, use E through the wall from the river side, and the Red Buff will walk out into the brush beside the camp so you can take him while hidden in the brush...
- When counter-jungling as you approach a jungle camp it can be used through the wall to see whether the camp has spawned or not - listen for the sound of it striking an enemy.
- Similarly, E can be used for brush checking: even though you can't see an enemy, you will hear a sound if the flame hits an enemy.
- In Dragon form, if you suspect an enemy is backing in brush, throw an E into the brush and you might execute the enemy.
- If a melee champion like Jax or Udyr or Xin Zhao wants to duel you, if you're in Dragon form try to land an E on the duelling ground, so that he has to stand on it and take the damage-over-time if he wants to continue the duel: this should be enough to cause most opponents to disengage
- You can also use it as a disengage tool for your allies, opponents will avoid the patch and move out of it - similar to a support like Morgana or Soraka
- Being in dragon form increases your champion size and increases your auto-attack range to match
- It's one of the longest gap closers and also allows you to jump most barriers - anything except the thickest part of the wall by Dragon and Baron pits
- You can use it to engage (including over walls) or to escape
- It lets you dodge hard CC if you time it right
- It does some magic damage to all enemies in its path, around 300 damage late game
- With the recommended builds, if you are attacking a lot, R is on around a 30 second cooldown (at level 16 and higher). In more detail, the cooldown is maximum 50 seconds without attacks but attacks reduce the cooldown quickly: it can even be as low as 25 seconds if you are continuously attacking with maxed out attack speed and Q.
One thing to watch is that in dragon form, Shyvana is larger, meaning enemy skillshots can hit you more easily: it really becomes very hard to dodge them, even skillshots which are normally hard to land like Blitzcrank's Rocket Grab. Of course in dragon form you can tank damage better with your increased health, but you are not invulnerable: it's not comparable to Garen's Courage or Alistar's ultimate. The increased size is one reason why you might not want to use your ultimate at the start of a fight, but instead wait until the enemies have fired off some of their skillshots first. But sometimes you actually want to be the person who tanks damage for your team.
Tips and tricks:
- You are extremely powerful in dragon form around levels 6, 7, and 8. In mid-game from level 6 you want to develop a rhythm where you look to be ganking lanes or aggressive in some other way just when your R comes up, and you farm your jungle when R is on cooldown.
- When casting (or smart-casting) your R you can control the range as well as the direction - pay attention to the range, always aim for a position beyond your target, because the knockback will drag the target with you a short distance. If you don't reach the target, you won't knock them back or apply the magic damage.
- If you choose the range well, the knockback places enemies exactly where you need them to be to secure kills, i.e. you will be directly on top of them. If you are unsure about the range, one good trick is to ulti yourself and the enemy together into a wall, that's also nice because in the follow-up fight, with the wall and your own increased size, you can probably body-block the enemy from escaping.
- In dragon form, keep attacking as long as possible (including minions or towers) to keep the dragon form active.
- If your attack speed is high and you attack soon after activating this ultimate, you might notice that the Fury bar sometimes touches 100 again and turns red, but that does not mean you have a second activation of the ultimate - you are already in dragon form!
- Cooldown reduction makes no difference to this ultimate as it depends only on your Fury bar. (URF mode makes no direct difference to it, but your Fury builds faster in URF mode.)
- If your ultimate is on cooldown, you can build up Fury quickly by attacking a minion wave or jungle camps using only auto-attacks and Q - do not use W or E because those will kill the minions too fast. Fury also builds when you attack priority targets like turrets, inhibitors and Udyrs...
- Unlike most champions in League of Legends, your opponents can easily see when your ultimate is available, from the red colour of your Fury bar. They can even see its cooldown. But sometimes they might not notice if your Fury bar is at 96 or 97 and about to become available: sometimes opponents will just give a quick glance to see if it is red or not.
- Your flight cannot be interrupted by knock-ups and other hard CC (though it can be interrupted by total terrain barriers, for example Trundle's pillar or Anivia's ice). Your ultimate is not stopped by Jarvan IV's Cataclysm or Yasuo's Wind Wall. Good players can use Shyvana's ultimate to avoid knock-ups, grabs and other hard CC, this requires perfect timing of course.
- Don't assume that your ultimate makes you invulnerable: you are targetable while in flight and a ranged champion can continue attacking you so you can die mid-flight.
- The knockback from your ultimate will interrupt champions who are channeling, making this a powerful counter to Katarina and Miss Fortune, also Fiddlesticks, Galio, Karthus and a few others with dangerous ultimates: you need to dive towards the damage.
- The knockback from your ultimate only works from the front of your dragon form model in flight - so if you ult an enemy who is right next to you (within melee range) probably there will be no knockback: it's like after you have done the initial leap to transform into dragon form, that enemy is already behind you.
- If you are able to run past an opponent (e.g. using Flash or Ghost) a good trick is to use your ultimate to push the opponent back towards your team, for an easy kill - but for the reason given in the previous point, you need to be well past the opponent, with clear space between you, to do this
- If you are low health and in danger of dying from poison (or haemorrage, ignite, red buff, Brand etc) your R can save you by giving you insta-health
For this reason there's always been the concept of an AP Shyvana build. You can even find a few older guides and videos showcasing it. But just to be clear, until Seasons 8 and 9 it was a troll build. Sure, a player could do well with an AP Shyvana build, but probably that's because the player was going to have a good game with Shyvana anyhow - maybe it was a smurf account? Broadly AP Shyvana works for the same reason that full tank Shyvana works - Shyvana has a respectable amount of damage naturally (especially against neutral objectives) even with no damage items. But if you want a strong AP-scaling champion with good objective control you should be building Cassiopeia or something.
In Season 9 - actually ever since Patch 8.9 - Shyvana's AP scaling on E and R has been heavily buffed, so that both deal heavy damage when you can land them (with an AP build). This is nice, because Dragon-form E was already Shyvana's best ability.
If you want to try it out, apart from the AP you'll be wanting a high CDR build, with some attack speed. So basically Nashor's Tooth. Always build this.
AP Shyvana is a very viable pick in an URF-mode game, she's actually one of the strongest URF-mode champions.
With an AP build, Shyvana's positioning is different. She is aiming to use her high mobility from W (which can be almost constantly available when she has 40% CDR) to stay out of range of enemy abilities, and apply poke damage with E. If she lands an E, she can follow up by using W-AA-Q to engage at close range and finish the target off.
For team fights: R to engage and convert into dragon form maybe even before the fight starts, when you land immediately activate W for maximum mobility, and try to fire off a perfect E - if you are in the center of the enemy team (because you used E on their back line) then now is a good time to use Zhonya's Hourglass. Your W and E will do passive damage while you are in stasis, and your abilities will be off cooldown not long after the statis ends, for a second E. Follow up with W and basic attacks and Q now they are retreating.
Works well paired with a team mate with a very solid engage, Malphite probably the best. Shyvana likes to be the second person into a fight, not the first.
Good items to build are Nashor's Tooth (rush), Spellbinder for movement speed, Enchantment: Runic Echoes as your jungle item for 10% CDR and so that your basic attacks, Q and W are not completely useless. Zhonya's Hourglass for armor, Morellonomicon for magic pen. More defensively, Liandry's Torment, Rylai's Crystal Scepter or Banshee's Veil if you need MR. Rabadon's Deathcap as 5th item or to replace the jungle item, you want to finish with a full AP mage build, aiming for 800-1000 AP. All the "AP + health" items are good in this build, you can also look at Hextech Protobelt-01 for its engage power.
If you play the standard Shyvana builds but you want to try out AP Shyvana, you can try it in a long game. So after you reach full build and surplus gold, you can try selling everything and switching to a full set of AP items and see how you like it.
You have to commit fully to an AP build. There's no point in half AD / half AP hybrid builds, because the play style of each build is totally different. With an AD + on-hit build, Shyvana must hard engage at melee range and kill opponents with her basic attacks and Q before they kill her, she is basically duelling all the time. With an AP build, Shyvana has to try not to engage, instead poke from range until the opponent is poked down enough (or allies are present to help) so that a full engage with R will then kill.
Quick tips for playing AP Shyvana:
- You want max CDR, 40% or 45% with Cosmic Insight
- Level up E first
- Look to fight only when you have Dragon form available
- Use R to get into position for a good E. All your damage comes from E
Updated for Season 9: It doesn't make much difference to your clear speed of the first camp which ability you start with at level 1 - and if you have a leash, you will probably not notice any difference at all. Therefore I recommend always start W. This gives you some extra mobility, just in case of any trouble - for example if the enemy invades, or if you want to invade as a team or try to solo-steal red buff or blue buff. At level 2, your ability depends on your jungle route and you need to think about yournext two camps: for taking Gromp and Red Buff next, Q is best (so you start WQE if you started at Blue), for taking Wolves and Blue Buff next, E is best (so you start WEQ if you started at Red).
If you don't have a leash, then start Q or E at level 1 depending on whether your first camp is Red Buff (Q for physical damage), or Blue Buff (E for magical damage), and take W second - so you start QWE or EWQ.
Normally, max W first, then Q, then E. Obviously max R whenever you can. From mid game, Q is Shyvana's highest damage ability when combined with on-hit items like Bloodrazor, Titanic Hydra, BotRK or Wit's End. Unusually for a champion ability, levelling up Q increases Shyvana's AD scaling, so you want to start adding levels to Q from level 7 when you are starting to build AD.
Some Shyvana players like to max E earlier. There's not a lot of point in that, as the E damage in Dragon Form scales with champion level anyhow, even if you do not level up the ability. Currently my opinion is it is better to max Q second to reduce its cooldown, and also because Q is so weak on its lower levels. You can even take some points on Q before the fifth point on W: I often do this. When you have Bloodrazor or other on-hit items, Q becomes Shyvana's highest damage ability, and its cooldown is usually around 1-2 seconds lower than stated on the tooltip (because the cooldown is lowered with each basic attack). Therefore levelling up Q makes a big difference to how often you can actually use it.
Standard combo: This is Shyvana's standard combo:
That first auto-attack before the Q is important, it means you can have two attacks in quick succession by making use of the auto-attack reset on Q.
That rapid AA-Q combo will proc on-hit effects a guaranteed 3 times. Therefore it's important to apply W and E to the target before starting the combo, so that you have all the on-hit effects.
Extended combo: In mid game, once you have Titanic Hydra, you can extend the combo to:
This extended combo applies all on-hit effects 6 times. If you are skilled, this combo can be done in around 2 seconds, so it has become Shyvana's burst. Very few opponents can survive this: for example the bonus on-hit damage from the effects of E alone will be 15% of the opponent's max health. Note that you use Q after Titanic Hydra, to cancel the short delay there can otherwise be after activating Titanic Hydra.
From level 14, when Q is maxed, you are probably ready to start another AA - Q immediately after completing this extended combo: that next auto-attack will be enough to reset the cooldown on Q. The second time around the combo will not have the Titanic Hydra item active available because that's on a longer cooldown (20 seconds).
Burst combo: For late game burst damage, when you don't have too much time to attack a target (because the target is damaging you, or is trying to escape), you can vary things for higher burst like this:
So the attack followed by Q followed by Titanic Hydra gives essentially four basic attacks in very quick succession - it can all be done in less than one second. This will chunk away a huge amount of the enemy's health (especially if you also have BotRK and Bloodrazor) due to % health damage, and most enemies will be retreating from you at this point. Then you use Dragon Form E as a nuke to kill them.
You can, obviously, add Chilling Smite / Challenging Smite and BotRK's active into the mix, also Ignite if you have it, to do even more damage to the target and to slow the target.
Self-baiting combo: A very good mechanic for Shyvana players - especially against high damage opponents and ADCs - is the self-bait. So you initiate on an enemy, get low on health, pretend to retreat, and then if they follow you, you attack a second time with a lethal burst of damage as soon as Q and other abilities are off cooldown. Like this:
The Q following the E gives a very quick attack - it can animation-cancel the E animation if the enemy is close to you. Best if you retreat into a bush for the 2 seconds while waiting for your Q to come up, because you can't be targeted while you are in that bush and therefore you will not take damage. If there isn't a bush nearby then Vayne, Caitlyn and other ADCs can very easily kill you while you are walking away from them.
Note that we activate Titanic Hydra after using Q - if you have BotRK, this gives more damage than using Titanic Hydra first. That's because Q applies on-hit damage twice, and with BotRK, the % current health damage is a big part of your on-hit damage. Titanic Hydra's active does such a heavy amount of damage (400-500 damage by itself) that you want that to follow your Q: if Q is first, your on-hit damage to the target will be higher because its current health will be higher at that point. (This is like Elise combos which want to do % current health damage first.) For the same reasons, with BotRK you should save nukes like Chilling Smite, Ignite and BotRK's own active - maybe even nuke from the dragon form E - until after you have done your main combo. So you chunk the target's health down with basic attacks and Q, then nuke them at the end.
Ignite and Exhaust have 10% lower cooldowns than Flash, Ghost has a much lower cooldown. If you are new to this champion take Exhaust, it's the most help in your pre-level 6 - it makes your ganks more effective, and it lets you counter jungle safely.
Against skilled opponents, Ignite, Exhaust and Heal are interesting for their deterrent effect. So an enemy jungler who is smart will generally not want to risk a 1 v 1 against Shyvana knowing she has one of these up - meaning they are less likely to try to invade your jungle early. This means you can follow your optimal jungle paths in peace, and so gain gold and XP quickly, which is what Shyvana wants to do. In contrast if you have Flash that's actually tempting an opponent to 1 v 1 you early, because a smart enemy will see forcing your Flash as a good outcome.
- Start and early game: attack speed
- Mid game: on-hit damage, starting to stack health and armor
- Late game: burst damage, solid defences
Shyvana's kit has 7 on-hit effects or synergies.
- Her Q applies on-hit effects a second time, as well as being an auto-attack timer reset - this means that an AA+Q combo applies on-hit effects three times (in around 0.3-0.4 seconds realistically, due to the time for the attack animation)
- Her W grants an on-hit bonus to every auto-attack while it is proccing
- Her E grants an on-hit bonus to every auto-attack against all opponents hit by the flame
- Every hit reduces her Q cooldown
- Every hit extends the duration of her W
- Every hit grants Fury, so either it reduces the cooldown of her ultimate, or it extends its duration
- In dragon form, her Q applies on-hit effects to all targets in the area of effect.
- adds magic damage as an on-hit effect
- each hit shreds the opponent's MR and at the same time gives +6 MR to Shyvana
- BotRK applies percentage current health damage as an on-hit effect
- Titanic Hydra applies a percentage of your max health as an on-hit effect
That's a total of eleven on-hit effects or synergies with the core items. Wow!
Moving stacks it, and Shyvana moves plenty, so stacking it is fairly easy.
Cheap mid-game options
I generally buy one Long Sword any time I have a spare 350 gold, because that early +10 AD gives around a +10-15% buff to your total damage. It's best to spend all your gold, if you can. Apart from Tiamat, here are some other possible options for utility items you can build that Long Sword into for something useful. If building an AD item early - for example Titanic Hydra or Frozen Mallet - then obviously you should be building the components of that item to complete it sooner.
Shyvana uses a combination of factors to catch opponents: high base movement speed, a burst of speed from W, and the range of slows she has at her disposal. Burnout is great, but not enough by itself to catch all opponents. Against kiting opponents, Shyvana still needs something additional for speed, for example Phantom Dancer, Trinity Force or Youmuu's Ghostblade, or a heavy slow to apply to the opponent. You may need to chain slows. Blade of the Ruined King gives the best slow from an item active, because it's a 3 second slow and it speeds you up at the same time as slowing the enemy. Chilling Smite is similar. You can have both :) If you took Exhaust as a summoner's spell, it's best to wait to use that when you are already in melee range.
As we head into mid-season 8, from Patch 8.6 several ADCs and AD assassins received buffs, so armor up! Ninja Tabi are normally the best boots (even after their nerf in 8.7). But you should adapt boots choices to how the game is going, the enemy team composition and who is most fed. Later in the game I sometimes switch boots, it's only around a 280 gold cost to sell boots and buy different ones.
- If you are carrying your team and you need to do everything quickly - you're also probably 2 levels higher than opponents so defences are not too important.
- If the enemy has important skillshots, the extra manoeuverability from these plus W can help you dodge them - dodging a skillshot is better than tanking it, so these boots are actually defensive.
- If you need to keep up with a specific opponent who also has fast movement.
- If the enemy team has a lot of strong slows (Ashe, Jhin, Ekko, Teemo etc)
An important advantage of these boots is they cost less gold than other Tier 2 boots. The low cost means you can have a faster early game. With less gold spent on Tier 2 boots you can complete your first full item earlier, see this video for an example. Saving gold on a core item is a big advantage because it means not only do you complete that item sooner, it means you also complete every future item earlier as well. Earlier power spikes = more chance to snowball.
The early game movement speed itself also helps you snowball fast, because you can get to places faster and do more. And don't forget that the Celerity rune gives you a small amount of extra AD from your movement speed. Later in the game you can sell these boots for something more defensive if necessary. Most of the full game builds in this guide do not show Boots of Swiftness, but I quite often take these boots first and change them later.
If you have Boots of Swiftness and something extra for movement speed, your movement speed numbers in game may not be as high as you expect. For example, if you have Boots of Swiftness and the Celerity rune you might expect to have out-of-combat movement speed of 417 (without W): that's 350 base movement plus 55 from the boots plus 12 from the rune. But your actual movement speed in game will be 416. That's not a bug, it's a feature of the game intended by Riot, called a soft cap.
The % damage reductions given by Ninja Tabi and Randuin's Omen are significant against opponents who do most of their damage with basic attacks and crit strikes. When planning your build, it is important to know which enemy champions do that, and which do their main physical damage using abilities or on-hit damage - so think about it before the game starts, it will make the difference between buying Warden's Mail or Chain Vest! Generally speaking in-game you can tell by looking at the enemy builds, the auto-attackers will build critical chance items. If you see two opponents building critical chance items then you should definitely build Ninja Tabi and Randuin's Omen. Thornmail is important defence against opponents with lifesteal.
Shyvana also needs health items: there's no point having super high armor and MR, if you don't have the health to go with it. The health + damage items (Titanic Hydra, Frozen Mallet, Sterak's Gage, Edge of Night, Trinity Force) are all good for Shyvana. High health is a good general defence, because most enemy teams will be dealing out mixed damage. All the builds in this guide are therefore looking to have high health. But having high health is not a perfect defence, because some opponents do % max health damage: if you are dying over and over to a Vayne or a Brand, buying a Warmog's Armor is not going to improve the situation (much).
In Season 8, Shyvana therefore needs to build good general defences, but she cannot expect to build so tanky that opponents can never take her down. Lifesteal, health regen, high mobility, and slows to apply to your opponent, must all also form part of your overall defensive strategy - as well as dealing out high damage of your own. If you are having to duel against a fed melee opponent - a Master Yi for example - then Damage reductions which can be applied to one opponent - most importantly Challenging Smite from Skirmisher's Sabre, but also maybe Exhaust and Phantom Dancer - are part of your defensive options.
Standard defensive items
Less common defensive items
If you get fed early, then for your third item you have an interesting choice between tanking up so that you are unkillable, or building BotRK for devastating damage. I usually go the damage route - just levelling up already gives some tankiness for free. Defensive boots, for example Ninja Tabi, are often enough defence against enemy AD champions if they are behind, so that Spirit Visage can be your next defensive item (this also enhances your lifesteal from BotRK so that you can be on high health all the time). For example:
The basic build I recommend involves taking Titanic Hydra as your second item, but you could instead take the excellent and low cost Wit's End first against an AP jungler - for example Elise, Amumu - or any AP opponent who is already getting fed or becoming dangerous, for example Katarina.
Wit's End can also be used to create a low-cost - but still very effective - build if you get behind, for example bad luck in early invades or unsuccessful early ganks. If you are behind you need to build tankiness, not damage. The build below gives an inexpensive way to do that so you can reach the powerspikes of completed items even with less gold flowing in. Ohmwrecker is cheaper than other armor items but gives surprisingly good benefits (10% CDR, high health regen, movement speed bonus). Total gold cost: 11550.
If following this lower cost build, after you have completed Bami's Cinder and Wit's End, you may have too little armor especially if you went for the cheap Boots of Swiftness boots option. You can build some armor before your jungle item is finished, mid-game your build could look like this:
Against a full AD team, or a fed AD opponent, or a two ADC team (a ranged jungler), change your build order to complete Ninja Tabi earlier as soon as you have your Bloodrazor, and consider building full armor - maybe Thornmail if they are the specific squishy enemies who rely on auto-attacks. This build can be completed with another armor item for over 300 armor, maybe Ohmwrecker for the movement speed boost and CDR, or Zz'Rot Portal for combined defence, or Guardian Angel for some more AD.
Here's another build which works well against a full AD team, good against ranged opponents like Lucian who want to kite you and very good against tanks and bruisers. Finish this with a Randuin's Omen against a full AD team, you should finish with 265 armor and 4200 health, that's 15000 effective health against physical damage.
If you are carrying your whole team and stronger than any one single opponent, build Blade of the Ruined King earlier - even before any big defensive item - the lifesteal and high damage from it helps you to kill multiple opponents e.g. 1 v 2, and you will have the gold needed for this if you are carrying. Movement speed will also help you to bring all that pain to bear on the opponents, so take DMP instead of Randuin's. This could also be a game for a Trinity Force, again that helps if you are carrying because you can move faster. As the game continues, opponents will slowly become stronger and so you can build another defensive item 6th.
If your carries are carrying your team properly - for example your mid and ADC are both doing well - then it can be better for Shyvana to build full tank and just defend and peel for them. Even though you won't have such a high KDA (in fact your KDA can be quite bad, because a tank sometimes acts as a damage sponge for the rest of the team, and dies in the process) your team will win as long as your carries stay alive. A build like this is very strong against any melee opponents who might try to engage your carries, and has enough out-of-combat movement speed to catch up to your team anywhere on the map: you can also tank a large amount of turret damage with a build like this.
If you need high movement speed, take a Dead Man's Plate and Zeal in addition to your Boots of Swiftness - this can later be built out into a Phantom Dancer as your 6th item, similar to the Best Off-Tank Build but taking Phantom Dancer over BotRK. A build like this is strong against kiting ADCs like Ashe, Kalista, Vayne, Jinx - they try to kite you, but you catch up to them and 1-shot them:
Generally Boots of Swiftness are best for the laning phase, as Shyvana needs to get around a lot and also chase down fleeing opponents. Late game when most fights are team fights, raw movement speed is not so important - there's not much point to having higher movement speed than the rest of your team - and W gives enough burst movement speed for repositioning in fights. That's why late game we usually switch to Ninja Tabi or Mercury's Treads for all the defensive benefits those boots give.
Finally, here is a tanky build which - specifically - works well against Jax, Irelia, Camille and other melee opponents with a close-range stun:
So you do a lot of passive and W damage to them if they engage with you, you are tanky enough to survive their burst, and the slow from Frozen Mallet means you can stay on top of them when you counter-engage.
Long game builds
In a long game (more than 40 minutes), opponents will be on full 6 item builds, and Shyvana will have excess gold, so Shyvana no longer has her (normal) advantage of having more gold than the opponents. So what can you do with that excess gold? Answer: (1) buy Elixirs + (2) replace your boots + (3) look at rebalancing other items. This is easy enough to do when you have extra gold: you don't have to stop thinking about items just because you already reached full build.
It makes sense to replace boots in a very long game, you will usually be losing only around 25 movement speed at most, depending on what item you take instead. Maximising movement speed is not so important in the end game as generally you want to stay with your team. The best boots replacements are normally Trinity Force or Phantom Dancer - both also make you a bit more tanky - or Youmuu's Ghostblade for raw speed. In a more defensive situation (or if you need to split push while 4 defend) look at Zz'Rot Portal, Ohmwrecker or Dead Man's Plate as a boots replacement, you can still have high movement speed in combat by activating W.
If you replaced your boots already, then you can also sell cheaper items such as Wit's End and buy something more costly. Generally late game you should be looking to out-damage the opponents with higher burst damage, so attack speed is less important late game than it is in the mid-game, instead single hit or single combo damage is more important. And although something like Wit's End is an excellent mid game item due to its on-hit damage and good gold efficiency, when you have gold to spare then you are more interested in slot efficiency - meaning highest damage per item slot. A 3000+ gold item is usually going to be better than a 2500 gold item, if you only have one item slot to spare. For damage and tankiness combined, Frozen Mallet is really good if you don't have it already, and Sterak's Gage can also be good after you are on full build. For pure damage you could look at a Stormrazor to out-class other bruisers and to one-shot squishy opponents. For damage and defence, Edge of Night is very good, or Mercurial Scimitar is excellent with its cleansing ability.
Exchanging Wit's End and your jungle item as a pair can be a good idea. For example if you built Cinderhulk + Wit's End early (for a cheaper build giving early and mid-game strength), you could exchange them as a pair for Skirmisher's Sabre - Bloodrazor + Spirit Visage after you reach full build. Bloodrazor is a strong late game item, and Spirit Visage is strong when you have completed BotRK for the lifesteal. You could also look at Frozen Mallet here or an armor item, if magic damage is not a problem.
Enchantment: Bloodrazor gives very high damage in the late game, so it's not normally a good idea to sell it. But to push your damage even higher, if you specifically have Phantom Dancer either as core build or boots replacement, you can take Infinity Edge in place of the jungle item, it's the only item which gives higher late game damage (but Infinity Edge works only if you already have 30% crit chance). It is possible to sell the jungle item without harming your jungling ability, its Tooth/Nail bonus damage against jungle monsters is nothing when you are at full build, and you still have the same 1000hp smite for Baron and Elder Dragon even with no jungle item (most people forget that!)
Don't forget to buy Elixirs as well!
Apart from all that, in a very long game (depending on your team) generally you want to tank up to something over 4000 health. It's because if you don't then full build opponents can kill you before you have enough time to do anything useful, and by now your ADC and mid should really be on full damage builds so they become your team's primary damage dealers. Even though I don't like to play Shyvana as a tank for most of the game, once your ADC is on full build + elixirs and playing properly then he really needs 2 team-mates as a tanky front line, and probably you are going to have to be one of those. You can look at this as Shyvana following a full damage build early to earn lots of gold and get a nice score, then surprise the enemy by switching to full tank for the end game. Titanic Hydra and Frozen Mallet are viable tank items of course, or you could even go literally full tank. If building full tank at level 18, Locket of the Iron Solari is surprisingly excellent because it shields your entire team using some of your tanky stats: the shield scales from your bonus health so a 700-800 hp shield is possible for all 4 of your allies - take that, Janna! (Seriously, it would be better for the Janna or Soraka or other ranged support to switch to a full AD build at this point in a 45+ minute game... nobody ever does that, but they should, because two ADCs is awesome.)
Some other ideas:
- A high damage late game build with high movement speed and good lifesteal, and also fairly tanky. This is stronger than your enemies' full builds, very strong against the enemy back line, and with an Elixir you can win a 1 v 2, the movement speed helps you dance around your opponents to win a 1 v 2 as long as they don't have CC. The Phantom Dancer with a full build does good damage thanks to the crit chance combined with your auto-attack resets: you are hitting often, and one third of those will be crit strikes. Here Phantom Dancer is taken instead of boots, and Trinity Force in place of the jungle item. Taking Trinity Force actually reduces your damage (compared with Bloodrazor) but it adds useful movement speed and health. You can easily solo Baron with this build, the crit strikes increase your lifesteal. This may be the only build that can let you solo your strongest opponents, for example a fed Xin Zhao who has Bloodrazor and Guinsoo's Rageblade.
- A very high damage late game build for highest possible damage without sacrificing all your defence. This build should be able to one-shot most opponents and may be the only build that can let you solo your strongest opponents, for example a fed Xin Zhao who has Guinsoo's Rageblade! If they have lifesteal they will outsustain you if you build tanky, so instead this is designed to kill in just one or two hits before they can lifesteal back up to full health: Shyvana with a full damage build can do a massive amount of damage with a single Q. Here Youmuu's Ghostblade has been taken in place of boots, you will have very high out of combat movement speed (thanks to Dead Man's Plate and Youmuu's), and Stormrazor gives you a movement speed burst in combat, if you need even more movement speed in combat you can activate Youmuu's.
- A similar late game build for when you need to one-shot a melee opponent who built full damage with stupid amounts of lifesteal (a full damage Yasuo, Master Yi, etc) - here the Phantom Dancer gives you a bit more mobility to outplay them. As with the previous build, you have not much defence so an ADC can slaughter you, but if there is only one person carrying on the enemy team, this should let you engage and kill them before they kill you. The mini-slow from Dead Man's Plate can let you get a second attack in immediately after your first hits, even if they are running from you, so make those two attacks count - Q + Titanic Hydra active is your best combination, and blue smite is best as their lifesteal counters red smite. Again you don't take Guinsoo's Rageblade here because you are looking to one-shot them, not out-sustain them.
- A tank killer build, if the enemy team has multiple tanks this will melt through them in seconds, you will have incredibly high DPS. By replacing your MR item you are giving up some magic defence, so you should take out the enemy mage first, but a level 18 Shyvana still has over 100 MR naturally (exact stat depends on how many drakes you took). This build has high health but only one fully defensive item slot so adapt it to the strongest threat to you, normally that's the ADC or being caught by crowd control under a turret, so we take Randuin's Omen or Dead Man's Plate: DMP is useful for crossing the map when you have no boots, but Randuin's Omen is stronger if the enemy ADC is on full build, and late game there's not much point in being able to move faster than your team. (Exceptionally, against Singed you might want to make that a Spirit Visage.)
- A mainly defensive build for the late game. Essentially the only change from my standard Shyvana builds has been to swap the Bloodrazor enchantment for Cinderhulk, this will give you over 4000 health, and you still deal plenty of damage from the Titanic Hydra + BotRK pairing. Against a full AD team, take Thornmail instead of Spirit Visage. Ninja Tabi are usually the best late game boots choice for their important defence against a fed ADC, but to be even more tanky you could take Dead Man's Plate or Zz'Rot Portal or Ohmwrecker in place of boots, all give some movement speed benefit.
- Another full tank late game build, you can easily switch a standard Shyvana build over to something like this in the late game. This one provides utility from the multiple slows, and close to 5000 health. Stacking health improves your Titanic Hydra damage which is the only damage you have going for you in this build. Note this build has no BotRK, that's fine as long as your allies have damage, you can still be very useful especially if your team lacks CC.
- Finally an experimental build for maximum movement speed. This build has a high amount of single target burst damage for the late game, there is good attack damage and some crit chance and with 30% CDR (40% with blue buff) you can have W almost permanently. Instead of tanking damage, you activate W and speed away. You can be faster than Kennen when W is proccing: even after the soft cap your base movement speed is 530 in combat, 580 out of combat: and with W and Youmuu's active that increases to over 700! Defences are a bit less than a typical Shyvana build, but defence is less necessary when you can run so fast (and it's easier to dodge skillshots). This is an experimental build only, but it could be a lot of fun.
- Uses Q and Titanic Hydra after auto-attacks for a quick double or triple attack
- Uses E when already in melee range, to make sure targets are marked when you attack them
- When a team fight already started, uses R to leap in and win the day
- Otherwise saves R to use it as an escape, or to secure the kill if the enemy flashes away
- In a duel, keeps on attacking when low on health - if you believe, you can achieve a kill and survive - it's because most opponents are on full cooldowns after their burst
- Is mobile during fights, moving around targets to dodge skillshots, to be closer to next objective or escape routes, and to constantly apply AoE damage (Titanic Hydra / dragon-form Q) to targets behind your main target
- Stays mobile while taking jungle camps, for example kiting the camp when W and E are both on cooldown
- Makes use of R and walls and other natural obstacles to block the target from moving or escaping - Shyvana has a large hitbox in dragon form and can body-block other champions
- Uses W to enhance mobility during fights
- Makes use of brush when fighting or being chased - if not visible you are not targetable, you can also use brush to give time for abilities to go off cooldown so you can turn on your attacker
- Respects turrets, does not tower dive early game, especially not to secure a 1-for-1 kill
- Instead of chasing directly, anticipates opponents' escape routes and takes shortcuts through the jungle to catch them when retreating
- Ganks winning lanes to get herself and her ally fed (and to get the enemy team all flaming each other and on tilt)
- Takes efficient paths, covering objectives in sensible progression and earning gold all the time.
A bad Shyvana:
- Activates Q before the first attack (but actually that's OK if you are chasing and might only get one attack)
- Attempts to use E at long range, misses, or even if it hits she loses out on the on-hit benefits from E due to not being in range for melee attacks, and using E spoils her own mobility (E interrupts movement and basic attacks and also switches off all out-of-combat movement speed bonuses)
- Uses R to initiate team fights, and dies - especially if her team does not follow
- Judges the range of R badly, stopping short of targets who move away while she is in flight
- Retreats when low on health, is chased by the opponent and dies
- Stands still in fights and just hopes her area-of-effect abilities will do damage
- Stands still while taking jungle camps, takes damage when abilities are on cooldown
- Is easily evaded or kited by higher mobility champions
- Uses W for a movement burst before fights, so it is too quickly on cooldown when the fight starts
- Has tunnel vision, takes direct line routes when chasing or escaping
- Attempts tower dives when ganking Ahri, and hands the enemy team a free kill
- Chases opponents and gets baited into a 1 v 2 when an enemy comes to help
- Ganks losing lanes trying to help an ally who is weak or has a bad match-up, and hands the strongest opponent a free double kill
- Wastes a lot of time walking or staying in lanes to 'help', too focused on minor objectives or with no real objective at all.
Efficient routes help you to maximise that advantage. When taking a camp, you should already be thinking about which camp you will take next, and the one after that too. If none of your camps is up next, then you need to be thinking about the enemy camps.
Shyvana can clear her own 6 camps fairly easily, so if you want to be strong, you need to always be looking for the contested objectives - Rift Scuttlers and enemy camps. Bonus situation: finding the enemy jungler in River trying to heal up off a Rift Scuttler or a plant (it can be worth hiding in a river brush just for this, and definitely ward the mid-river brush early). Also good: seeing the enemy jungler top, and stealing two of his bottom camps. Stealing camps is a strong strategy in Seasons 7 and 8, with all camps taking such a long time to re-spawn.
Updated for Season 9:
I recommend starting with Hunter's Machete and Refillable Potion, and stay on the map until you have at least 950 gold before backing - if you get an early kill or assist you can back even later. Refillable Potion gives you less sustain in your first clear compared with 3 Health Potions, but it should be easy enough for Shyvana to sustain herself with Smite, river plants, and Rift Scuttlers, and Refillable Potion obviously gives free refills on each back, and can eventually be sold for 60 gold.
The single camps are easy to kill and don't do much damage: Shyvana has high starting armor and high level 1 damage. Red Buff and Blue Buff can be taken fastest if you use the correct abilities - physical damage (Q) for Red Buff, magic damage (E and W, and E empowered basic attacks) for Blue Buff. But (for junglers like Shyvana who don't start with Talisman) raptors is a dangerous camp at low level, it has so many monsters that it will take away at least half your health at level 1 or 2, I recommend you completely ignore this camp until you have two points on W and Hunter's Talisman. Krugs takes a long time to clear all the monsters but gives decent gold and XP: I recommend you leave this camp until you have at least level 3 - you can clear it quickly with E and W.
The fastest start is to clear the 4 quickest camps first, and make sure to take at least one Rift Scuttler, or both if possible, they give a lot of XP and of course vision. The 4 quickest camps are Red Buff, Gromp, Blue Buff and Wolves. After the 4th camp you can either:
- go back for items and a potion refill - you must have at least 700 gold by now, enough for Hunter's Talisman and a Dagger. That Hunter's Talisman is good even on a manaless champion like Shyvana, it increases Shyvana's W damage to jungle camps and gives decent sustain - it's a strong help when taking Raptors and Krugs or an early Dragon.
- look to counter-jungle at level 3 if you think the enemy jungler will be low on health or mana by now, this depends on your knowledge of other jungle champions and their routes
Optimal route for Shyvana: Enemy Red Buff* (solo) - Rift Scuttler - Blue Buff* - Gromp - Wolves (where * shows the camp you will Smite). With this route, you start W because you are invading, it can give you an extra burst of movement speed if you need to get out of there. Shyvana can take Red Buff easily enough solo at level 1 with smite, kiting the camp to reduce damage taken, and this is exactly the correct timing for that first Rift Scuttler to spawn. We leave Wolves until level 3, when you should have W and E abilities as well, which help to take that camp more quickly and safely. This route gives you the fastest first clear, because Red Buff grants additional on-hit damage, and it's also a safe route assuming you do not get spotted at the enemy Red Buff, we start with Oracle Lens to make sure of that. You can heal up some with your health potion, nothing wrong with drinking a charge at level 1. Stealing the enemy red buff can go wrong - if it was warded, you might have both the enemy top and mid coming from you (you should be able to see this easily from their absence from the minimap). If the enemy jungler starts there, how you play it depends on the top laners - if it's 1 v 1 you might be able to beat the enemy jungler or put him on very low health, especially if you can out-smite him. If the enemy top laner is there, you should get out fast, unless your top laner is with you and has a strong level 1 (someone like Jax, Pantheon or Darius). If the enemy jungler started blue, but his red was warded, then he will probably respond by invading for your Red Buff at his level 2, but that's OK - he loses a lot of time doing that. (But ping your bot laners, his route back to his jungle might well involve a level 2 gank.)
Alternative blue start: enemy Blue Buff - Rift Scuttler* - Red Buff. Even with no leash, Shyvana starting with the W ability can take the Blue Buff solo at level 1 without smite, before the enemy jungler has time to get there if he started at his Red Buff. This camp will be complete at about exactly the time the Rift Scuttler spawns. Smite the Rift Scuttler to heal and to take it quickly because if the enemy jungler comes for you, he will look for you in the river if he's smart. Take Q as your level 2 ability, it helps a lot with Red Buff which you will be taking next.
Both of these routes involve an aggressive start of stealing an enemy buff at level 1, normally that's going to be whichever buff is on the top side of the map because most junglers start bottom side for a leash from bot lane. Starting like this is always good, unless you are seen and they come for you. It puts the enemy behind, because either he has to accept the loss of his early buff - so you get 3 buffs and he gets 1 - or he has to retaliate by stealing your buff, which loses him time because he has to walk over to it and walk back. Since Patch 8.10, another reason for starting like this is the Rift Scuttlers: they spawn at your level 2, exactly at the time you can get to river if you start first camp with no leash. Depending on the enemy jungler's route, there's a chance you can take both Rift Scuttlers as well as 3 buffs, if you focus exclusively on those as your objectives at levels 2-3 - it slows you down slightly because there's a lot of walking, but Shyvana walks faster than others with her 350 base movement speed and W, and it will be putting the enemy jungler behind if he walks to an objective and cannot take it because it is already gone. Think of it like a mini-game you are playing against the enemy jungler. If the enemy jungler is mana-dependent or lacks sustain, taking both Rift Scuttlers is an important objective for you just to close him down early, because Rift Scuttlers give back a lot of health and mana. Once you have done this, Shyvana can quickly and easily take her own remaining jungle camps at levels 3-4 before backing with 1350 gold.
If you start aggressive like this, the key thing is not to be seen at all (don't go into the enemy jungle until after 01:20 and then use Oracle Lens at level 1 to check for wards and enemies hiding in brush). If you find the enemy jungler starting in the opposite place from where you guessed, just use W to get out of there. If you are able to solo the camp but you think might have been seen, the important thing is to watch the minimap carefully to make sure you know where enemy mid and top laners are - if you lose sight of them on the mini-map, it's a safe assumption they are coming for you.
While you do this, the task of your allies in mid lane and top lane is to keep watch on their lane opponent, if the lane opponent leaves lane then they need to follow. The task of your bot lane is to get visibility on the enemy bot lane and jungler to make sure the enemy jungler started on the bottom side of the map, and pretend to be guarding river entrances as if you started bottom side.
Generally allies in lane will see your level 1 counter-jungling as risky, but it is not risky if you take the precautions above. It's best if your allies stay in lane unless they lose sight of their lane opponents, and this also helps your allies reach level 2 first. The worst that your allies in lane can do is to be seen before 01:25 in the region of the enemy buff or heading that way in a way which makes the enemy team ward it more carefully. So your allies need to stay where they would normally stay, not come to "help".
Do not be afraid to invade solo after you have level 4. Shyvana is a strong and safe early jungler thanks to her fast clears, natural armor, and lack of mana dependance. She can normally be a level ahead of the enemy jungler meaning you can win an early duel, and you can set back the enemy jungler a good amount, by stealing their camps (because camps take a long time to respawn). The jungle plants can also help you to invade safely, for example giving vision or knockback. But take care against the strongest jungle opponents: it's hard to win a fight against Lee Sin or Vi early, and if they land their skillshots they can probably kill you.
Tips and tricks:
- Start with Hunter's Machete, always.
- You have to know Shyvana's clearing mechanics. Inefficient clears mean you will lose health unnecessarily, and have to go back sooner - which wastes time.
- Use E when you are close to camps, so that you have its on-hit benefit for longer.
- For extra speed you can activate some camps - for example Wolves - as you approach them, this draws them out a little.
- Finish up each camp on the side that you need to be headed next, so you have a head start on you movement to the next camp.
- For higher speed, you do not need to wait for abilities to be off cooldown before starting camps. If your abilities are on cooldown, start the camp with basic attacks, you will still be able to use your abilities on the camp later with exactly the same damage as if you had used the abilities to start that camp.
- If you took runes different from the recommended Precision based rune sets, you will have lower attack speed so you will take camps slower and receive more damage, in this case you will need to test jungle routes for yourself in a custom game.
- Try not to use the plant which gives vision (Scryer's Bloom is its name...) If you use it, that will show the enemy team your location, because the plant's vision thing gets shown to both teams on the minimap.
Minutes 9 to 15 in the game
After first dragon, you want a farming route that gives you the most efficiency, meaning least movement between camps and least time wasted. Wolves - Gromp - Blue (if it's up) - Rift Scuttler - enemy Raptor camp - gank mid is a good route. Take Rift Scuttlers whenever you see them up, and don't be afraid to steal the enemy's jungle: you actually want to encounter the enemy jungler there so you can get a kill (but check the enemy laners didn't come to help). Gank when there is a high chance of a kill or assist.
Don't forget to kill the Rift Herald: it should result in your team getting at least one turret for free. Maybe 2 turrets, since she (the Rift Herald is a she) was buffed in Patch 8.9. You can kill the Rift Herald easily from level 8 onwards, though it's quite slow to take alone (and therefore risky if it's warded): faster with an ally.
I quite often take Ignite as my summoners spell, as it helps you win a duel against the enemy jungler if you decide to invade, and it also helps you to be useful in pre-level 6 ganks. With Ignite, look out for two specific early gank opportunities if they come up:
Opportunity 1: Mid lane gank at level 1 (before the minion wave arrives). At game start, take W and run as fast as you can to a mid-river brush, then wait near the entrance to the enemy's jungle - you will maybe do this anyhow if planning to steal an enemy buff camp at level 1. If the enemy mid is dumb enough to move forward from his turret (or maybe your mid laner can bait him) then you can get between the enemy mid and his turret, ping your mid laner, W, basic attack twice and Ignite, you can get a kill. Even if it goes badly you will force the mid laner to use Flash and maybe go back on low health, putting your mid laner on level 2 by the time he returns to lane. This is fairly safe because the enemy jungler will be at Blue Buff or Red Buff, not too focused on his mid lane, and that mid laner should be dead before the enemy jungler can come. You generally take 0 damage from this, the only cost is it reveals your position to the enemy jungler.
Opportunity 2: Top lane gank at level 2 (enemy top lane still on level 1). This is quite easy if you followed an aggressive jungle route. Go to steal an enemy buff on the top side of the map at level 1, you can usually do this unseen and unopposed if the enemy jungler started on the bottom side (even if it's warded, the enemy can't actually stop you from doing this without losing out on level 1 lane minions). Take W as your first or second ability. Smite the camp and drink a potion. You can now gank top lane on full health with level 2 and (maybe) totally unexpected at this time.
At levels 3-5, Shyvana's ganks are "bad" because the enemy can often just run away to tower:
- Shyvana has no early CC (except maybe Chilling Smite, but it's not usually worth rushing this)
- she has no gap-closer before level 6
- she has no real ranged abilities
- her main damage comes from melee attacks and it's hard for her to do any melee attacks against an enemy who is running away (maybe possible if you took Glacial Augment)
- she's not all that tanky at low level and cannot safely tower dive
- she has no natural sustain so can be out-duelled at low levels if the enemies stay to fight (especially in bottom lane).
But, Shyvana can do huge damage with her W if the enemy for some reason can't get away from it, for example if you run along next to an over-extended enemy while he retreats to his turret (you should basic attack while running ahead of him: W and basic attacks together can do a lot of damage if you stay with the enemy). If your ally has some crowd control (make sure your ally has mana before ganking) this makes everything easier. An ideal gank involves using Chilling Smite or R to close the gap (ideally pushing the enemy back towards your ally with your R knockback), activate W when you are on top of the enemy, move with the enemy while doing a basic attack-Q quick combo and then keep on basic attacking while running with him. If the enemy is threatening to kill you or your ally, Exhaust should reduce his damage and make him dead quicker.
You should be looking to gank lanes even before level 6 in these situations:
- if the enemy is over-extended so you have enough room between where they are now and their turret to run with them back to turret, applying a lot of W and basic attacks
- if you are able to come from behind, for example from the tri-brush, without being spotted on the way in
- if your ally has hard CC: make sure to ping plenty and check that your ally has mana
- if the enemy jungler is there, your laner might be able to bait the enemies into a situation where they make a mistake, for example attack your guy under his turret, and with your extra damage your team can get 1 or 2 kills (counter-ganking)
- if the enemy laner already killed your laner, but stayed in lane with low health to give you a free kill (best if you get there quickly enough to give your ally an assist)
There's a lot of ifs and buts here and only a large amount of in-game experience can really tell you which are the good situations where a gank will work out and where it will not.
Apart from the good situations, it's best for Shyvana not to be ganking before level 6 because it's wasting time and it's bad for team morale (you come, you attempt a gank, you don't kill, and you leave again: it looks bad). Your laners will ask for help, just tell them you will come soon or you will come after. Don't gank when your laners say they need it, gank when you judge it's good based on knowing your own champion. (One exception: against 'setup' dependent laners, specifically, Heimerdinger but also Illaoi, Zyra and Gangplank, if you are passing near to the lane you can come in, kill all their turrets / tentacles / plants / powder kegs without taking too much damage, and leave again. That helps your laner, it seems like a small thing but it actually changes the balance of power in the lane. For example I might do this just before going back to buy items.)
It might help to think of the enemy laners - especially slow-moving ones - as like another category of jungle monster you can 'farm'. You wouldn't farm a strong jungle camp or the Dragon when you are low on health and you have no smite, just because you see that it's up. Instead you will come to 'farm' it at a time when you have enough health, your smite is available, and you know that you can kill it (maybe with some help from your ally in lane). A pro jungler will also time ganks with a time when it's good for your ally in lane, looking at the position of the creep waves.
Although it's not great for team morale if your team see the enemy jungler pulling off two or three early game ganks while you are not ganking, actually it's worse for team morale if you go to attempt a gank and fail: the enemy team stops seeing you as such a threat, and your own team also. You can be sure all 3 of your lanes will know about it if you attempted a gank and failed.
Ganking makes you especially strong if you can get kills or assists early before you have your first completed item, as the early gold will help to complete the item sooner, meaning you have a power spike sooner. But don't worry too much if you have a game where the ganks don't produce kills: Shyvana also grows strong from farming (see this Cloud 9 vs Team Solo Mid game from LCS 2015 where the Shyvana is 0/1/0 at 27 minutes but has a huge gold advantage and has been a strong presence all game).
Mid season 8 patches (8.11 through to 8.15) have made major changes to the rhythm of the game in bot lane. ADCs now receive more advantages from levelling up so that an ADC who gets 1 or 2 levels ahead is more rewarded, and an ADC who gets behind has a tough time all game. ADCs and supports are (usually) both weak early compared with Shyvana and won't want to take risks, although it does depend a bit on the champions. Around levels 3-4, the ADC and support will often both be getting very low on health and mana in lane but not yet going back because the ADC wants 1300 gold on first back. This means it is worth ganking bot lane early if the setup is right. The success of your gank is going to depend mainly on whether your support lands hard CC: so good supports at this stage in the game are Leona, Nautilus, Blitzcrank, Alistar, Thresh, Pyke, Veigar. If your allies do not have an advantage (hard CC, or more health and mana than opponents) then bot lane can be Shyvana's hardest lane to gank early, she can easily die if the enemy lands CC and then both enemy laners focus her. Before ganking bot lane you need to think very carefully about the position of the enemy jungler and mid-laner: if your gank fails and then the enemy jungler or mid counter-ganks you might hand the enemy team two or even three kills.
If your gank does not immediately succeed, do not linger in lane because that is certain to draw the enemy jungler there. Shyvana needs to always keep moving and spread her pressure and the threat of her presence over the whole map, as well as keeping her own farm and XP constantly high.
So you are going to gank? Great, here are some things you want to ensure:
- You have Ignite or Exhaust up (if you have one of these summoners)
- You have Chilling Smite up
- Your ulti is up (post lvl 6)
- You have red buff
- You have a reasonable amount of health, at least 75%
- Your laner has some health and plenty of mana (if mana dependent)
- You know where the enemy jungler is
- You know where all the enemy laners are
- You use a Sweeping Lens or Control Ward to know whether or not you were spotted on the way in
- You know whether the enemy has Flash up or not.
You are ganking to get kills and assists for yourself and your team: not to help out an ally who is having a hard time in lane. Making the enemy use his Flash is a good outcome from an early gank. Making the enemy low health or low mana is also an OK outcome, maybe your laner will be able to get a kill later or the enemy will be forced to B. Either way, even if you don't get the assist, your team is still ahead.
A good strategy can be to figure out which of the lanes Shyvana can gank most easily (maybe due to the lane opponent having low mobility and no escapes: for example tanky / bruiser top laners) and gank only that lane. So you gank the same lane over and over, 3 or 4 times in the early game. This should be an easy way to secure some kills, and your lane ally will become so fed that he can then go and help the other lanes which you did not gank - for example top lane can Teleport to help. See some of the videos at the end of this guide for examples.
Helping your team without ganking
So what should you be doing instead of (or as well as) ganking? Six things, as Shyvana:
1. Take Dragon - you can solo Dragon at level 5, maybe even earlier if you know what you are doing. Your aim is take the first dragon uncontested and without being spotted, and 2 dragons for your team by 16 minutes into the game. See Dragon on Dragon section for more on this.
2. Farm - yes you might be accused of AFK farming, but if you can get level 11 first and two early dragons then you will bring a lot of power to the mid-game. Stealing jungle camps is an important strategy. Steal enemy jungle camps as much as possible, it helps your own farm, sets back your opponent hugely in levels as well as gold, and it's a good place for you to be anyhow for warding (3 below) and for attempting to kill the enemy jungler (4 below).
3. Ward - ward the enemy jungle, your whole team needs to know where the enemy jungler is (also to see any enemies roaming or lane swapping). Take every Rift Scuttler, it's a free ward in a very useful place.
4. Kill the enemy jungler - hunt him down in his own jungle or the river and kill him there. This will make your laners very happy, it's a kill for your team and removes the threat of them being ganked. It's also great for morale, it makes them think "our jungler better than their jungler". It can be an easy kill, because there is no turret nearby for your opponent to retreat under, and most junglers are not at full health (especially in river, that's often where junglers come when they are low on health, looking to heal up from the Rift Scuttler or from plants). There are just a few opponent junglers who you can't kill early if both go all in, usually that's Warwick, Vi, Xin Zhao and Udyr but obviously it depends on the situation, who is fed, etc. Of course use and abuse your summoners spells to help to secure the kill.
5. Counter-gank - if a gank is taking place and you are near enough to get there in time, you may be able to turn the fight around and win a 2v2 or 3v3 - but take into account your own health level and your ally champion's abilities and health and mana in your decision-making, you don't want to hand the enemy a free double kill. Counter-ganking with Shyvana is strong because she can do a lot of damage to two opponents - even before level 6 - and if your opponents already blew all their abilities and gap-closers on attacking your ally, then it will be hard for them to escape you.
6. Take down turrets - although you are not in a lane, you are in fact the fastest turret pusher on your team. Whenever an enemy is missing from lane, you should take the opportunity to help push down that turret, it opens up the map for you as well as punishing the enemy for leaving lane. Especially you should help your mid lane in this way because most mid laners are weak against turrets: if that Outer Turret is still standing, it's down to you, not your mid laner!
- Hunting out and killing the enemy jungler
- Stealing the enemy's jungle camps
Killing the enemy jungler:
The best place to kill the enemy jungler is in the jungle, because it's probably a 1 v 1 fight which you can win, and there are no nearby towers for him to escape to. You can win the 1 v 1 fight because you have Exhaust to reduce his damage, or Ignite: against other melee junglers I also recommend Skirmisher's Sabre as your jungle item for the Challenging Smite which gives you a large advantage in a 1 v 1 duel.
Do not have tunnel vision on this jungle fight, you also need to watch the mini-map, because if any enemy laners are near enough, they will probably come to help your opponent: if one comes to help then together they can probably kill you, unless you have R or Flash to escape.
If you can kill the enemy jungler 1 v 1 that is a large benefit for your team, not only in terms of gold but also in terms of the psychological advantage, it can put the whole enemy team on tilt. It makes your team safer against ganks: your laners cannot be ganked while the enemy jungler is dead or in base and they probably won't be ganked while the enemy jungler is behind in levels and AFK farming to catch up.
See this video and this video for examples of games where the Shyvana kills the enemy jungler early and so, as a result, is able to carry all game. In both videos, getting early vision on the enemy jungler is what leads to the kill, because the Shyvana player then knows exactly where to go to find him next: it's simple if you see which side of the jungle he is coming from, because you know he just did those camps and he will next want to go into the other side of his jungle where the camps are still up. Even having vision of the enemy's small jungle camps can be enough, because if you see that a small camp is down, you know that the enemy jungler was there recently: if you know where he is not, that can help you to figure out where he is. The commentary in this video explains this quite well.
Stealing enemy jungle camps:
After clearing your own jungle, look for opportunities to steal enemy jungle camps. In Season 8, jungle camps take a long time to re-spawn, so if you steal enemy jungle camps this is definitely going to slow down your opponent's levelling and gold income (but watch for him retaliating by invading your jungle). Also generally Shyvana can complete all the camps on her side of the map and still be hungry for more jungle to farm. Exception: I generally will not steal the enemy Krugs camp, because that takes a long time and it's so close to lane that you are taking a big risk staying there: and it's in a bad spot, you can be trapped between the enemy jungler, the enemy laner and two towers, and there isn't even a jungle plant to help you jump away.
Here is an old Scarra game in Patch 6.23 where he follows a strong counter-jungling route, continually invading the Elise's jungle so that he is quickly 2 levels and then 3 levels above her. This helps his whole team, basically Elise is unable to gank because she is behind, and so all the lanes gradually pull ahead. But he makes a mistake going to the enemy Krugs camp and dies there, for reasons why this is a bad idea see above!
Invading to steal jungle camps is a very strong strategy when you are at level 5 and only need one more camp to hit level 6. You invade, and even if the enemy jungler comes, you will be level 6 to his level 5 in any fight which ensues...
After level 6, you can take enemy jungle camps whenever you want to, and you can and should do that - Shyvana can think of all the jungle camps on the map as being 'hers'. But importantly, if you do not have vision of all the enemy laners, then ward the approaches to the enemy jungle to keep yourself safe - if the enemy know you are in their jungle, they could easily send 3 people to hunt you down.
There are many advantages from stealing enemy jungle camps:
- Whenever the enemy jungler is killed or backs, he will naturally want to go from his base into his own jungle. So you can deny him a large amount of gold and XP if those camps of his are permanently taken - you can almost completely shut him down in this way after the first mid lane turret is down so that crossing between the two enemy jungle sides becomes easy for you. Think about those games where your team has lost all 3 lanes and been pushed back to base, and you as the jungler have a hard time because then you can't get any gold - if you make it into your jungle at all you find most of the camps have been taken, sometimes even your allies take the jungle camps because they are desperate for gold as well. It sucks, and it leads to you losing even more quickly. Think about those games, and the effect it has on you as a jungler, and now try to give the enemy jungler this experience in every game...
- Stealing jungle camps denies the enemy jungler both gold and XP. Especially you want to do this if you are ahead, for example if you are on level 6 and the enemy jungler is not yet, because he desperately needs that XP to reach his level 6 and catch up with you.
- If the enemy team know you might be in there, it makes them play more cautiously, for example they will not pressure your lanes so hard, and they will use up more of their wards warding their own jungle, instead of warding river or warding your side of the map as they should be.
- Being in the enemy jungle gives you a good chance of finding the enemy jungler for a 1 v 1 fight, which you want to have if you are ahead of him.
- Being in the enemy jungle puts you in a good position for ganking lanes, because you can approach the lane from the enemy turret side, cutting off the escape and using R to push the enemy toward your own team.
- Even if most of the enemy jungle camps are taken, you can put some deep wards into the enemy jungle which gives useful vision.
- Shyvana takes camps so fast, when she has items, that she maybe needs to steal some enemy camps just to have an efficient route: there will be times when all of her own camps are down - especially in Season 7 when camps spawn more slowly than before.
Shyvana has fast enough movement speed, combined with her W, that if she is anywhere nearby she can often get to a lane in time to counter a gank. Put simply, when counter-ganking you are trying to do two things. First, you can save your ally from dying - for example if your ally is good enough to put both enemies on half health, and then you show up in lane on full health, the enemies will usually retreat and your ally can escape to the tower. Second, it can turn the situation around and give your team the kill.
At levels 1-6, an effective counter-gank can happen if the enemy switch their focus onto you and your ally has the skill (and mana and cooldowns) immediately to go aggressive even though he has only 50hp remaining. Shyvana can tank a bit of damage even at low levels, most enemies do not have much damage at low level after they have blown their cooldowns (there are some exceptions like Renekton and Warwick who are dangerous at all levels). But it can be risky. In solo queue, you should generally not go into situations where your survival depends on a team-mate taking certain action or following up. If the situation looks risky - two strong enemies, or your ally is on low mana or just not a good player - then you should not counter-gank even if you are nearby, your counter-gank at low level can easily give the enemy team a double kill.
From level 9 onwards, once Shyvana has two damage items, it's better for her simply to look to kill both enemies herself - they can be easy kills, if the enemies' escape abilities are on cooldown.
But ... Shyvana does AoE damage, so surely she should be really good in team fights, right? It's true that her AoE abilities can do useful damage to closely grouped opponents. But she is a melee champion and (apart from her E) her abilities only do damage to nearby opponents - it's like she does damage with her own body and its flames. This means she must always risk herself to do damage. In a straight up fight with three opponents or more, her AoE damage will not be enough to kill the opponents before they can kill her. It's the same however you build Shyvana: a tanky build can be a "damage soak" for your team but you won't be able to get many kills and can still be melted in a 5v5; and even with a higher damage build (as recommended here) Shyvana likely still will not be able to secure a kill before dying herself.
So tank-style team fighting, where you walk up to the enemies' faces or dive in as your team's initiator, is not a good idea. Even with a tanky build, Shyvana should not be played like a full tank champion: that is not her role.
If you play smarter, Shyvana can do well in 5v5 fights.
- With allies who go all-in with her, at the exact same time, together you will do a lot of damage and should kill multiple opponents. Someone might die, but the enemy team can't focus all of you. (This works best when you play with people you know, it's hard to get the timing correct in solo queue.)
- Shyvana can peel effectively for her carries, by simply killing any melee champion who attempts to dive them - late game Shyvana is a very effective counter to Zed, Master Yi, Riven and other squishy melee hyper carries (also to Katarina).
- In a similar way Shyvana is good at flanking: that means using her mobility to approach the enemy team from the side or the rear, she can take one enemy out of the fight and maybe turn the fight around, she can also catch out an opponent who is retreating from the fight at low health.
- With allies who can hold a team-fight without you then Shyvana can wait on the side until she is late into the fight - maybe even the last person to commit to the fight. Then at a good moment she can ulti in and do a burst of AoE damage, and clean up multiple enemies, at a time when the enemy team's abilities are mostly on cooldown so there's not much they can do back to her. This style of team-fighting works well for Shyvana, for the same reasons that she is strong in counter-ganks. It's kind of a selfish way to play, but it's very effective both in solo queue and in teams.
Here is Cloud 9's Hai doing this in a LCS Summer 2015 match. See also this game-changing Baron fight in another LCS 2015 game. Finally, this video of Hai as Shyvana in a non-competitive game has him, again, using his ulti to go late into a team fight 1v4 - and he does the same thing again later in the same game.
It's best to fight an enemy at the side of a team fight, positioned so that Shyvana is on the outside of the enemy, facing towards the fight. That way, Shyvana's area of effect damage from E and Q (in dragon form) and from Titanic Hydra will be able to damage multiple enemies behind the main target. It also makes it easier for Shyvana to activate W and retreat from the fight if you don't like the way things are going.
Every team fight has a rhythm, often it goes like this:
- Someone dives or applies CC to initiate
- Full engage from both teams and all initiating abilities used, a lot of CC is flying around
- Back line (e.g. AP champions) moves forward to apply damage
- Anyone left alive falls back to a skirmishing position (or disengages at low health)
- Losers retreat, winners chase
The power of split-pushing
Sometimes you will want to join your team and fight because your presence will strengthen the team and secure some kills, and sometimes you have to team-fight, because you're contesting Dragon, Baron or a turret, or similar situations.
But - especially if you are carrying hard - it's often best for Shyvana not to be team-fighting most of the time, but instead to split-push hard and roam. This split-pushing pressure helps your team more than if you are team-fighting.
If you are pushing a tower or inhibitor, while the opponents are grouped in mid lane attacking your team or a turret, the opponents now basically have 3 choices.
- First choice is to ignore you, in which case great, you just took an inhib.
- Second choice is to send one person (probably their strongest) to stop you, in which case that person will die.
- Third choice is to send 2 or (safer) 3 people to deal with you, in which case they just pulled out of the team-fight.
- she can take down turrets and inhibitors very fast (especially with the higher damage builds)
- she can tank a few turret shots if necessary (and can easily heal up in the jungle
afterwards, thanks to lifesteal)
- she can 1v1 any enemy who comes to try to stop her, probably even 1v2 if it is not the
strongest members of the enemy team
- she has the mobility to get to objectives quickly
- if the whole enemy team comes for her, she can probably still escape using R and W.
If you are playing as Shyvana in the jungle, after the game has gone beyond 20 minutes you really need to think of all enemy turrets which are still standing as being your primary responsibility to take down. There's no need to be polite and leave them for your allies in lane!
It's very nice if you have a chance to take a Dragon at level 4, but that's not going to be possible in all games. It depends on spotting the enemy jungler, so keep a good eye on your minimap and allies' early pings, you want to figure out at least which side of the map he is on. If he is not near bottom side, you can go directly to Dragon after your first back, at level 3 or level 4 (take 1 camp on your way to Dragon if you need to level up to level 4). Swap your trinket for Oracle Lens on first back, that's very important to see whether the Dragon pit is warded, although most enemy junglers will not ward the pit this early.
In this way, usually Shyvana can get to the first Dragon earlier than the enemy jungler: the only exceptions are Elise and Warwick, you can find that these two sometimes take a Dragon even earlier than Shyvana, so make sure to ward the dragon pit from around 6 minutes against these if you are not taking the dragon yourself (Vi in the jungle, and Heimerdinger and Kalista laners can also take drakes very fast).
Tips and tricks:
- If taking an early Dragon it's generally best if your team-mates do not help, unless they are already in river. If bot or mid come to help, the enemy will see them leave lane and so will know you are attempting drake. If the enemy come, you are at great risk of being killed because you are on low health, and however good you are with Smite it's basically a 50/50 chance for which team gets the Dragon if both junglers are present. If your team-mates do not leave lane and the opponents are not experienced playing against Shyvana then you can often take an early drake without being detected.
- The safest time to take Dragon is just after your mid lane killed an opponent, when bot laners on both sides are all in lane. The enemy jungler is very unlikely to come to Dragon then - most enemy junglers are not capable of soloing Dragon before level 7, and they will not want to pull their bot laners away from lane when your mid laner is free to roam making any river fight 4 v 3. Depending on where he is at the time, the enemy jungler will either try to counter-attack your mid who is low health, or he will stay farming his own jungle, or he will try to get a revenge gank on top lane. The best that can happen is you find the enemy jungler in the river taking the Scuttle Crab (to protect his bot lane in case your mid roams) in which case you get to have a full health fight with the enemy jungler, with your mid nearby and free to leave lane to help.
- If you get vision of the enemy jungler in top lane, that's a very good time to take drake.
- Generally it is best not to go to gank bot lane prior to taking first Dragon, even though you are close to them and you can see they would benefit from the help. (I disagree with the commentary in this Master level video - he says in the commentary he should have gone to help bot lane, but actually what he does, taking the Dragon solo, is the better play.) If you go to gank, you are likely to lose most of your health when doing it, so then you will have to back: this means you lose time, you lose the opportunity to take Dragon uncontested, you probably used your ultimate which is your safe escape, and you gave the enemy jungler valuable information (now he knows you have level 6 and items, and he knows you are interested in Dragon). Exceptionally, if you check the lane and you see that you can get an easy kill in bottom lane if you gank, and if your mid lane is also free to roam, then do the gank - probably then the surviving enemy bot laner will have to back, you will be on 50% health, but you and your bot lane together can take the Dragon quickly.
- For second Dragon it's good to have help, because the enemy team will likely contest it (their jungler will be watching the timer, because he's angry he didn't get the first Dragon).
- If sneaking an early Dragon use a Control Ward to check Dragon pit is not warded. You can also tell whether you have been seen by watching the mini-map: if you start Dragon and there is no reaction at all from the enemy mid lane and bot lane - so they all stay in their lanes - then it's a safe bet you have not been seen.
- If on the mini-map you see enemies deliberately start to move towards you, get out of there, fast, you have definitely been seen and the enemies will reach you before your allies come (because the enemy started moving first, and your allies will only move after): if you stay you will likely die in a 3v1 or 4v1 and give the enemy team a free early Dragon.
- If you are in the dragon pit and you see an enemy Stealth ward being placed, get out of there immediately, or (if allies are nearby) at least pull the drake well out into the river - a stealth ward means the enemy jungler is just on the other side of the wall, waiting until you and the Dragon are both nice and low, then he will come into the pit and kill you and take the drake.
- Do not start first Dragon if you do not have sight of all enemy laners.
- If you lose sight of enemy bot lane and jungler, ping your allies to collapse on Dragon together with you, do not go to contest it alone if you think the enemy jungler is there. Although it's super annoying to lose a Dragon, it's even worse to suicide againt the enemy team and then lose the Dragon anyhow, so sometimes you just have to give a Dragon up.
- Always go away and come back later if the enemy team has an active Rift Scuttler ward there.
- On blue side you do not need to take the Rift Scuttler before taking first Dragon, because you do not need this as an escape route: if you are level 6 you can escape out of the pit over the wall. Not taking Rift Scuttler reduces the chance that you will be detected, because an enemy jungler coming through the river will generally take Rift Scuttler first if he sees it's not taken, before checking / warding the Dragon pit. While he's taking the Rift Scuttler he actually can't see into the Dragon pit, if you stand between the Dragon and the wall. This can be hilarious if he's there in the river close to you and still doesn't see you taking drake, until it's too late to stop you... This video included in my general jungle guide has a nice example of this at 04:27 in the video, the Tryndamere walks past without seeing Shyvana.