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League of Legends Build Guide Author Arclight Stigma

Shen - The Way of the Intercepting Blade

Arclight Stigma Last updated on February 25, 2011
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Team 1

LeagueSpy Logo
Top Lane
Ranked #43 in
Top Lane
Win 50%
Get More Stats

Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

Not Updated For Current Season

The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 1

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 21

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 8

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Shen, Simple, and Direct

Shen fulfills the two criteria for a tank.

1) Meat Shield: The main function of a tank is to be able to take damage more so than other classes of champions.
Shen's Feint allows him to shield him up to 200+ (0.6 AP) of any normal or skill based damage

2) Get Aggro: The ability to force an opponent into a pre-emptive combat state.
Shen's taunt, Shadow Dash is a narrow width Area of Effect (AoE) immobilization technique that makes all opponents he touched auto attack him for up to 2 seconds.

All champions who fullfill this criteria is considered a tank. With the exception of Cho'Gath, but you can argue that he's able to get aggro by simply being big enough to physically shield mouse clicks from the enemy team ;)

Both being able to take damage and obtain Aggro defines Shen as a tank. However, what sets Shen apart from other tanks is his ultimate Stand United which allows him to shield damage to an ally.

With the appearance of the new Ionian Boots of Lucidity, I thought it would be interesting to incorporate this with Shen's unique tanking abilities. In this guide, we'll concentrate on the art of interception and the reason why it is the most important method of fighting in League of Legends for Shen.

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Method of Mitigation

The Underrated Benefits of Dodge

The most underrated attribute or passive ability in the game is utilizing dodge for tanks. Dodge is important if not as important as damage mitigation. Dodge is not luck. Dodge is statistics. However, the act of obtaining dodge is useless in the game because there aren't many items that have dodge and that would be one and only Ninja Tabi. Dodge is known as the only stat in LoL with diminishing returns. Each additional dodge % is based off of the previous dodge %. However, no one can bash on you for getting a solid 11.25% dodge from Runes. These dodge percents are tax free!

Dodging once every ten hits probably sound petty to you, but that's only the case for 1 vs. 1 fights. Shen shouldn't be going into 1v1 fights anyways unless you're well fed. In team fights, you have 2-3 opponents auto attacking you at once and ten hits go by in 3 seconds. However, today we won't be diving into the dodging tank world as there aren't that many dodge % items anymore. Building 11.25% Dodge from Runes is a waste as Flat Runes are more important as discussed in this section.

Before we dive into Runes, we first most discuss the concept of damage mitigation. There are three main ways of alleviating damage, building a large amount of HP, Physical Defense, and Magical Defense.

Building Health/Hit Point

- Absorbs both Physical and Magical damage
- Increases the magic damage from Shen's passive Ki Strike since it is based off of 3% of Max HP and activates every 8 seconds.

- Not as efficient in absorbing damage as per unit of Physical Defense or Magical Defense as opponent's auto attacks and skill attacks damage in the hundreds per second

Physical Defense

- Efficient mitigation all auto attacks and Attack Damage (physical) type champions

- Only mitigates physical attacks
- Expensive for Def per unit dollar

Magic Defense

- Efficient mitigation of all skill attacks

- Only mitigates magic attacks
- Expensive for Def per unit dollar

Law of Diminishing Returns

After understanding the basics, what sets high level players from low level players? The Runes that they buy from earning IP. The general consensus is to get all the best runes that give the most Stat Point / IP you spend! However, this is wrong as getting +9.72 HP at level 18 gives negligible difference. Rune buffs are in the low two digits no matter what stat. Dodge isn't the only thing in LoL that gives diminishing returns, Runes' effects diminish as the game progresses and champions level up. The only time in the game when Runes do make a difference is in the beginning. Starting off with flat bonus Runes gives benefits where it matters - when you're level 1.

We conclude that Runes themselves are the very definition of diminishing returns, especially non-flat by level runes.

The Runes chosen for Shen will be HP Flats Reds, Movement Flats, Magic Resist Flats Blues, and HP Flats Yellows.

Greater Mark of Fortitude - Extra health
Greater Quintessence of Swiftness - Footwork and distance decide battles
Greater Glyph of Warding - Magic Resist where it counts
Greater Seal of Fortitude - HP buff where it counts

I used to run with Magic Pen reds but doing the math it turns out that HP Flats in reds give better benefits in the opening game as can be seen below:

In the above model, I put Shen against Tryndamere to represent physical damage DPS and against Ryze for a magic caster. You can see Flat Magic resist has a slightly better performance than Flat Armor against a physical DPS, but negligible benefits in reality. The Flat Health Red Runes actually perform much better than either armor or magic resist runes as represented by the blue line. The purple line is for magic resistance against a magic caster. This shows a much greater performance of course and also reminds us that building your champion to the situation is much more effective than following cookie cutter builds consistently. However, since we can't choose Rune pages after knowing who we're laning against, going with HP Flats will have to be the way to go. Magic Penetration Reds only give 6 more damage for each Vorpal Blade , and you have to toss 5 of those babies to break out even. Going with Magic Resist Blues is logical as the flat blue runes give a much larger stat bonus per rune x9. Why did I only have the model show time stepping up to 6 seconds? That's because all the lines pretty much fall on top of each other exactly after that. The difference between performance was completely negligible after 6 seconds, and at 9 second.... Shen is dead.

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Strategy and the Pitfalls of HP Building

Most players of Shen already know this but comparatively, Shen has a lower HP than other tanks in League of Legends. Not only that, but his attack damage and Vorpal Blade damage is minuscule relative to other champions and even other tanks. Furthermore, he only has one active skill that is a damage dealer. Going the route of building HP items and relying on a 8 second passive is not a smart either since most fights end in less than 10 seconds.

Building Physical Defense and Magical Defense is the best way to go in terms of the most efficient way to accumulate survivability. The key word in League of Legends is to be able to survive and fight another day...or in this case be able to teleport back to base and regenerate. But you can't blindly build defense. You must adapt your defense accordingly depending on the enemy team composition. It is common sense to buy magic defense items for enemies who rely mostly on dealing magical damage and buy physical defense gear for enemies who rely on physical attack damage.

Basic Tank Battle Gear

Doran's Shield ==> Boots of Speed ==> Randuin's Omen ==> Mercury Treads Mercury Treads ==> Guardian Angel ==> Sunfire Cape ==> Force of Nature ==> Atmas Impaler

This gear selection allows of a balance of HP, Magic Defense, Physical Attack Defense with more emphasis on magical as 90% of the time opponents' 1st, 2nd and 3rd attacks will be a skill attack and most of the time it is magic based despite the composition of the enemy team.

If your entire enemy team is composed of physical damage then..

Physical Damage Mitigation

Doran Shield ==> Randuin's Omen ==> Mercury Treads Mercury Treads ==> Sunfire Cape ==> Guardian Angel ==> Thorn Mail ==> Atmas Impaler

Vice versa... if by some weird means of tenchu, heaven's way or whatever.. the opposing team is all magic casters and/or heavy Ability Point (AP) burst or nukers then it's common sense to just concentrate on building HP and Magic Defense

Magical Damage Mitigation

Mercury Treads Mercury Treads ==> Randuin's Omen ==> Aegis Aegis of the Legeon ==> Spirit Visage ==> Force of Nature ==> Banshee's Veil

People say you have to get the core items and then go with "Item of Situation" etc. etc. but in reality, there's really a limited number of item combinations in this loose context of "Situational."You either get a basic tank set or you go straight physical or straight magical defense. The only items considered "core" for Shen is Randuin's Omen and Guardian Angel . Your boots of "Situation" can get bought at really any time you feel necessary within the first 3 items you get.

Including Magic Resist Runes will give you 24.3 bonus in Magic Resist. Say if Kassadin hits you with 700 Magic Dmg while you have 100 Magic Resist

Mitigated Dmg = 100/(100+100) = 50% off 700 = 350
Mitigated Dmg = 100/(100+100+24.3) = 57% off 700 = 301

The above is a plot of damage that is absorbed per unit of defense (armor or magic resist)

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The Core

Opening Items

Three different starting item methods were considered. Spending 475 Gold on a Doran's Shield , 475 Gold on a Ruby Crystal Ruby, and 105 Gold on 3 HP Potions .

Using a simulation of a battle between a level 6 Uldr and a Level 6 Shen a plot of Shen's HP vs. Time was generated.

As you can see Doran's Shield and Ruby Crystal Shen performed the same and assuming Uldr has infinite life, Shen will die in 16 seconds with either Ruby Crystal or Doran's Shield. However, he will die in 11 seconds if he just goes with no gear and just straight chugging HP potions. This leaves Doran's Shield and Ruby Crystal being the two more viable items. The two perform equally in battle, but Doran's Shield will help regenerate Shen through time if he survives a battle or if he retreats. This item is more important now as cost has went up to 475 Gold instead of the previous 425 Gold, preventing players from buying a HP Potion alongside the regenerative item. Ruby Crystal allows for a 475 Gold headstart on Randuin's Omen , Aegis of Legion Aegis of Legion or even Warmog's Armor . Doran's Shield is equivalent to the ability to regenerate HP 2x normal Shen's (Lvl 6) rate. You need about 2 minutes for Doran's Shield to regain the 230HP you lose from one Uldr skill attack in which he has a 6 second cooldown. Not very cost effective for the short term. However, as with the new Doran pricing, HP potions health Potions now rule the opening game. Almost every player will stock up on HP potions and/or get Heal . Going for a 475 Gold Ruby Crystal , although gets you Randuin's faster, but puts you in a very bad position as your enemies regenerate faster than you and can harass you much more.

In the past, the bottom line was that it solely depends on what kind of Shen player you are. If you're aggressive, go Ruby Crystal to get Heart of Gold quicker . If you play defensively and expect to trail out the opening game, go with Doran's Shield. After the newest patches, it's more foolhardy to not start with a Doran's Shield . Unless you're really confident in not making mistakes, you'll find that you will stay in the lane many times longer with the shield than without.

Shen's Two Weaknesses

1. Low damaging single-target attacks. Useful but not great is his Vorpal Blade in last hitting minions. It gives him decent range and can do well in last hitting minions, but he farms slower than other champions due to low damage output and lack of AoE attacks.

2. Relatively Low Max HP. Compared to other tanks, Shen is squishy and will get annihilated if the opposing team are heavy hitters and Shen is the only tank on your team.

Randuin's Omen not only has the Heart of Gold that helps him gather cash, but also builds HP (benefits Ki Strike ), and gives the Active ability of a massive AoE slowdown to surrounding enemies. Which is a vital skill to his ability to disable the opposing team while he has Aggro and/or if he needs to assist in his allies escape by slowing the enemy team down.

Against an opponent with 100 Magic Resist:
Vorpal Blade Damage = Vdmg*[100/(100+magic resist] =
230*(100/(100+100-8.55) = 115 magic dmg

Add Magic Penetration Runes:
Vorpal Blade Damage = Vdmg*[100/(100+magic resist - magic pen] =
230*(100/(100+100-8.55) = 120 magic dmg

Normal Vorpal Blade cooldown is 2 seconds. With 35% cooldown reduction, Vorpal Blade can be used every 1.2 seconds.

Sunfire Cape Sunfire Cape is an essential item for Shen in terms of delivering damage and farming as he is severely lacking in both departments. Getting Sunfire Cape earlier on in the game builds better survivability than getting Guardian Angel.

A strong opening item selection should be:
Doran's Shield => Boots of Speed => Heart of Gold => Boots of Situation => Sunfire Cape

This allows Shen to farm for gold at a heightened rate as he'll constantly get money from Heart of Gold. Shen also benefits from the ability to do a lot of midgame and late game farming from his teleporting ultimate. His Sunfire Cape will allow him to minion farm easier as he wanders around the lanes doing midgame farming. When necessary, you can add Warden's Mail; when you feel you have built up enough Gold, upgrade to the full Randuin's Omen

Guardian Angel not only boosts both Magical and Physical defense, but stores an ability to revive yourself on the battlefield every 5 minutes. This essentially gives you a second chance to intercept the enemies and save your team mates. I say Guardian Angel is an optional core item because although a great addition, it can be replaced with

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The Intercepting Blade

Most feel safer starting with Doran's shield , but at level 6 with an opponent hitting you for around 70 dmg, 8 defense mitigation will only save you about 50HP after a couple hits. Starting with a Ruby Crystal for more HP leaves you with 10% more HP during or after a battle than you would've had with just a Doran's Shield. You lose the HP regeneration ability of Doran's Shield, but a aggressively leveled Vorpal Blade makes up for it.

Build in the general order of:
Randuin's Omen = Armor + Cooldown Reduction
Boots of Lucidity = Cooldown Reduction + Movement
Spirit Visage = Cooldown Reduction + MDef
Sunfire Cape = Armor + MDef
Force of Nature = MDef + Movement + HP Regen
Atma's Impaler = Armor + Dmg

Shen's most useful and meaningful skill is his Ultimate ability, Stand United. Stand United allows Shen to absorb 750+(1.0 AP) magical and physical damage on an ally and teleport into his location after 7.5 seconds.

Ranked games usually ban Shen due to this supposedly game changing skill, but really it's just not that game breaking. Stand United is highly telegraphic as it generates a cloud around the assisted team mate for several seconds allowing the enemy engaged to spot it and run away if needed.

Shen's greatest ability of all is being able to intercept an opponent or a group of opponents.

Intercept before engagement, Intercept during engagement, Intercept after engagement.



Shen can use his AoE taunt, Shadow Dash to initiate a fight for the team thus intercepting the opponent(s) before they strike your fellow team mates. Furthermore, Shadow Dash can knock opponents out of stealth like Akali's Twilight Shroud or Evelyn's Shadow Walk .


If both teams have already engaged in battle due to an enemy tank's taunt, a teammate tank initiating (Shen being support tank), or a stupid carry being Rambo; Shen can efficiently use his Shadow Dash after engagement to do a combo Aggro sharing. Your main tank or team mate has already gotten aggro, but now Shen can regain aggro by taunting throwing the enemy team off or doing a Combo Taunt with a fellow tank. This gives at least 4 seconds for your carries to nuke the opposing team.


If the battle has already started and champions running around everywhere, Shen can run into the war zone and taunt to save a teammate or chase down an escaping opponent. Shen can also cover a huge amount of distance in terms of chasing as he can:

Flash -> Shadow Dash -> Vorpal Blade

This combination allows Shen to last hit and kill an almost dead opponent before anyone else on your team.

Stand United:


Shen's Ultimate can be used before your team mate has engaged. Your team mate can begin running at an opponent while you use your Stand United , this allows the activation time tto be spent on team mate's action of closing the distance to an opponent. With timing, you arrive in range for a Taunt to disable the opponent while you both gank.


The ultimate can also be used during your team mate's engagement with an enemy. Stand United will shield your team mate from all damage while he fights. The most efficient method is an engagement by baiting. Wait for your team mate to lose a good amount of health tricking the enemy into thinking he can win the fight and thus become invested in staying. Most people tend not to notice the cloud of doom lurking around your fellow team mate.

The Point Blank Ultimate

If an enemy is ignoring Shen and keeps going after a near-death ally while you're in any situation where you can't use Shadow Dash (too far away or under cool down), use Stand United even if you're several feet away from your ally.


Stand United can also be used after engagement, as your team mate is almost dead and/or running away. Teleporting in with your ultimate can save your comrades and allow them to escape or even kill their chaser.

Run Away - A Tactical Retreat

Shen's Shadow Dash allows him to walk through walls. Any wall or barrier thin enough for his Shadow Dash arrow to pass through means he can run through it and escape from most enemies with the exception of Kassadin's voiding and Renekton's dash attack which can also go through walls.

Tower Hugging
If the enemy is putting too much pressure, stay close to the tower and know the distance of the tower's defenses. It becomes a distance game of whoever crosses the line first, if they do, use Shadow Dash to taunt them into hitting you so the tower will go after them.

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Art of Fighting

Back to Basics

You must lead the charge being a tank or secondary tank. MARK the enemy target that you want the team to concentrate all attacks on prior to engaging. Taunt and close your distance accordingly to where this marked target is. Do not waste a single hit on their opposing tank, unless you want to Intercept their tank by taunting them as well.

A Combination Attack

Shadow Dash -> Feint -> Activate Randuin's Omen -> Exhaust a Carry

This combination of abilities will allow you to incapacitate a group of enemies, shield yourself from a high damage skill attack, slow down all opponents in the vicinity so they can't run away from your team who's about to come down on them. You can also add Exhaust to your combination as it not only marks an enemy carry on screen better but slows them down from escaping or using skills.

When you're up against experienced opponents, they will try going after the squishies on your team and avoid targeting you as much as possible if not completely. Building a massive defense and survivability becomes less important as you want to disable as many opponents as possible in those crucial 8 seconds of battle. You don't just want to be a statue because only stupid players keep hitting statues. Experienced players will stun Shen, preventing his taunt while they go after his team mates, but never once waste any attacks on him.

To win a fight, you must intercept the opponents for your allies.


The most important thing when Shen is not protecting allies is Farming. Get familiar with Vorpal Blade's damage output per level. Use it to decisively last hit minions to earn gold. In order to be a good tank, you must be able to afford all the tank gear, especially if you're the only tank on your team. Remember Shen is squishy to be the center of focus. Don't give everything to your carries, because if you can't take damage they suffer much more in the mid to endgame. Try to avoid engaging early on unless you have a hard hitting partner in the lane.

Stay hidden in the bushes to last hit minions or throw a wandering dagger at the enemy as harassment. Level Vorpal Blade up as a priority because most champions won't see Shen as a threat and will choose to plow you and your partner over when the opportunity shows itself. Don't be afraid to toss a few Exhausts here and there to bluff your opponents. They usually disengage or run away without realizing your Vorpal Blade is weaksauce.

The most important thing to remember is Distance. Know the distance of your Vorpal Blade, the distance of which you get out of the range of your opponent's attack. Use your Shadow Dash to escape back away to avoid attacks.


This is where your cooldown percentages come into play. At this point you should have Randuin's Omen , Boots of Lucidity and Spirit Visage giving you 8%+15%+12% = 35% Cooldown Reduction. The two most important skills in your team, Shadow Dash and Stand United are restored 35% faster. You can be elusively jungling or stalking prey waiting to intercept any opponents on the map. Your ultimate is up and ready to be used in double teaming with allies. You can afford to farm or push lanes while your entire team is on the other side of the map.


This is where Stand United becomes less useful as compared to the Opening and Midgame. The enemy team is traveling in packs and you have less chance to gank with the ultimate. However your 35% quicker Shadow Dash allows you to chain multiple taunts during a team fight to retain Aggro or chase down AWOL enemies on the run. A normal 9 second cooldown for Shadow Dash turns into a 5.85 seconds cooldown from the 35% reduction

Do not try to save an ally being ********ed by multiple enemies, as he will be killed and you will be teleporting into the slaughter. The endgame is when you also obtain Atma's Impaler giving you a physical defense and damage boost which you will need if you intend to register any damage to the fed enemy champions.

Summoner Skills

There's a limited variety of Summoner skills that are useful on Shen.

Exhaust : Shen has excellent chasing skills. Combining Exhaust with Flash and his Taunt he can cover a massive distance in capturing retreating opponents. Exhaust also allows him to slow down enemies after team mates.
Flash : Same usefulness as Exhaust, but also allows Shen to escape danger and get that last hit Vorpal Blade to slay an opponent
Ghost : Importance of Movement and Distance in fights. General consensus to be great on Shen.
Ignite : Gives Shen some extra damage in the Opening game
Fortify : Gives an edge on tower defense if Shen is not at the turret for whatever reason, his team mates won't have to cower in fear
Heal : Due to the inability to buy both a Doran's item and HP potion anymore, an Opening game heal has finally become important and maybe game changing element early on.

The Art of Escaping

Back Step

Flash -> Shadow Dash is a very basic Shen escape maneuver. Shadow Dash and Flash can also allow Shen to pass through thin walls like Kassadin or Renekton. You can also start off with an Exhaust if you want to increase the chance of escape. You can also Shadow Dash into the bushes and start a regular Teleportation back to your base. Not saying Ghost isn't a great skill on Shen, but Flash and Shadow Dash is also a good combination.

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8 Seconds

8 Seconds. Everything ends in 8 seconds.

In this 25 second time step model of a LoL team battle, I arbitrarily pitting Shen against a somewhat balanced team of Katarina, Kassadin, Cho'Gath, Pantheon, and Evelynn. This team has a mix of casters, AP dmg, physical dmg, and tanky opponents.

The time starts when Shen initiates the fight by Shadow Dash. The opponents are taunted and forced to auto attack whether by physical or magical damage. After the 2 second stun, they will all unleash a damaging skill on Shen and then wait for cooldown while auto attacking. In this ideal scenario, it is Shen vs 5 opponents in which all 5 enemies are stupidly focussed on the tank being Shen.

An aggressive Interception Shen build is compared against the all around Tank build of "Shen Out of ****ing No Where." I chose this build as a reference point as it's a very strong tanking build and I use it all the time. (It should be noted that original Tank Shen's build numbers are inflated as Mobafire stack intermittent items with final gear stats) Expectedly, Tank Shen with higher defense and HP can absorb all damage from all 5 opponents up to 10 seconds, while Interception Shen dies after 7 seconds.

30% Cooldown
Randuin's Omen
Boots of Lucidity
Spirit Visage
Guardian Angel
Force of Nature
Atmas Impaler

Tank Shen
Doran's Shield
Mercury Treads
Aegis of the Legion
Randuin's Omen
Force of Nature
Guardian Angel
Sunfire Cape

Way of Intercepting Blade
Randuin's Omen
Boots of Lucidity
Spirit Visage
Sunfire Cape
Force of Nature
Atmas Impaler

Even with the 35% cooldown reduction, Shen won't get his Shadow Dash back until the 5.85 second mark. Well by then he's almost DEAD!!!!

1. This is a team battle
2. Nine out of ten times, Shen won't be focused on by all 5 opponents in a team battle. Smart LoL players are aware of #1 above.

If the scenario of Shen vs 5 does occur, then lucky you. You might live you might not, but your team will have nuked the brains out of them while you are being concentrated on.

Chances are you successfully taunt about 2 out of the 5 enemy team members during the initiation. In this case, you can see from the graph that you will survive well beyond 15 seconds. But here is the important thing: Your Shadow Dash is back at 5.85 seconds instead of Level 18 Tank Shen's 8.28 second Cooldown. You successively you Shadow Dash at least 2-3 times. This stops all AoE contacted opponents for 2 seconds and your team will dish out damage.

A lot of times the respawn of Guardian Angel is useless as a 750 HP tank that can be killed in a couple seconds. Going with a Sunfire Cape brings the performance to identical of a full on Tank Shen by raising the Physical Defense up a notch. Combining the best of both worlds for real world performance and 35% Cooldown Reduction, Shen that can intercept an opponent with the same survivability as a full Tank Shen. If you have a really strong damage dealing team then you might choose Guardian Angel over Atma's Impaler .

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The above chosen scenarios are simple simulations models. They don't fully represent everything that can happen in an actual battle, but accurate depicts auto attacking and skill usage levels on damage mitigating armor. The chosen opponents in the models also don't always accurately represent your enemies in every battle, but were chosen based on balanced team composition and damage type. Please use this guide as a reference only there are various combinations of situations Shen will face.