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Soaking Up the Damage
Shen is an uniquely suited tank champion in League of Legends whose presence is felt everywhere in the game after he hits level 6.
Shen is a ninja, reliant upon energy instead of mana to cast his abilitie, but he plays far different from the other ninjas in the game (like the AP carry Akali or AD carry, jungler Lee Sin). While his small stature may not look tough, he is as tanky as the rest of the beefier looking tanks and can tank (soak up damage) just as well as Rammus, Malphite, Alistar, or Galio. As Shen, you will usually be in the middle of the fray, taking hits, taunting numerous enemies at a time, and protecting the rest of your team while staying alive.
Shen's most beloved/hated, well-known skill is his ultimate, Stand United, which allows him to shield an ally unit anywhere in the map and teleport to their location, coming to their aid.
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Energy Management and Abilities
The first thing you'll notice when playing Shen is that instead of a mana pool, the resource you will be using is Energy. It is a static pool of 200, and recharges at 10 energy per second. All of your abilities (with the exception of your ultimate) cost an amount of energy, depending on the level of the ability (reduced over subsequent levels). Since energy is very limited, you must know exactly when to cast each abilitiy and how to effectively use it to conserve your energy and use the right combination at an opportune time.
Every 8 seconds, Shen's next auto attack will deal magic bonus damage. Every time he is hit, the cooldown is reduced by 2 seconds. The bonus damage scales with his health (10+ 5 x level + 8% bonus max health).
Abuse this passive every time it is up! Poke enemy champions or last hit more easily. This passive allows Shen to jungle as he will be able to deal more damage to jungle creeps. The damage it can deal is deceptively high. Build HP to use this passive to the fullest.
Vorpal Blade (Q)
Shen throws a sword at a single target, dealing magic damage (scales with .75 per AP). That unit becomes life tapped for 5 seconds, healing anyone who attacks it over 3 seconds.
This is Shen's main damage, farming, and harassing ability. This is the ability that allows him to stay in lane longer, regenerating HP, and also to jungle. It has a low cooldown, and can deal decent damage to last hit or in-combination with Ki-strike, your passive, to harass enemy champions are in range. If you or a teamate is low on health, use it on a canon minion to heal off of damage delt. This can also be used to sustain your team when doing Dragon or Baron.
Shen shields himself for the next 50-250 (+0.75AP) damage and lasts for 2.5 seconds or until the shield is broken.
This shield can be used to save your life or make you a bit more tanky when taunting enemies or initiating a fight. At max rank, it has a relatively low cooldown and can be spammed as you run/dash away from an enemy opponent. Use it to shield from pokes and other damage when taunting.
Shen rapidly dashes to a target location, taunting enemies he collides with for 0.8-2 seconds. If an enemy is struck, 50 energy is returned.
Like Rammus's single-target taunt, Shen's is much better as it can taunt multiple enemies in a small line. This dash can also be used to go through thin walls when chasing/escaping an enemy. If you use this to get away, watch your energy as it can get low and you may not be able to use another skill like your shield (W).
Stand United (R, Ultimate)
Shields a visible allied teamate anywhere on the map for 200/475/750 damage (+1.5 AP) for 7.5 seconds and teleports you to their side after channeling for 2.5 seconds.
Shen's ultimate has a very long cooldown (180, 150, and 120 seconds) and the shield may not be able to save your ally, so effectively knowing when to cast your ultimate separates the experienced from the novice Shen players. Since the spell takes 2.5 seconds to channel the teleport, it should be used in anticipation when an ally is engaged with the enemy. Too early and you may chase off the enemy or used too late and it could cost your ally's life. When used that the right time, you can turn a 1v1 situation into a 2v1 and score the kill.
In limited instances, you can also teleport away if you are trapped, but be wary that ulting a teamate since his ultimate got nerfed, will no longer grant Shen the same shield, so you may still die if you have really low HP.
Leveling Q first allows you to do the most damage and to sustain in lane. Leveling your taunt (E), followed lastly by your shield W is the best way to skill Shen. Of course you should be taking your ultimate (R) at levels 6, 11, and 16.
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Summoner Spells, Runes, and Masteries to Take
Summoner Spells - Ghost and Exhaust
Ghost allows you to chase, position yourself in teamfights or run away. Flash is good on most champions, but the cooldown is too great and ghost allows you to more effectively run away. Your dash (E) is on a much lower cooldown and is preferrabl to use when going through walls or getting out of sticky situations.
Exhaust is perfect to put on a fleeing enemy to really dish out the damage, taunt, or to save your teamate who you may have just ulted to protect.
Marks (Reds) - Flat armor penetration
Seals (Yellows) - Flat armor (could substitute with dodge if you grab the Nimbleness mastery)
Glyphs (Blues) - Flat or Scaling per level Magic Resistance
Quintesences - Flat HP
Armor penetration reds allow you to deal lots of early damage and a consistent amount late game when enemies start building armor. Armor, magic reistance, and flat HP yellows, blues, and quintesences allow you to tank extremely well as you will be initiating most fights. There really are no better alternatives.
9/21/0 is the best to maximize damage on your Q and be as tanky as possible. Be sure to grab the improved exhaust (cripple) and dodge buff (Nimbleness) if you decide to go dodge yellows and build ninja tabi (for a heavy AD team).
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Core Items: Mercury's Treads (or possibly Ninja Tabi), Heart of Gold, Sunfire Cape
Possible other Items: Rylai's Crystal Scepter, Force of Nature, Aegis of the Legion, Thornmail, Gaurdian Angel, Randuin's Omen or Abyssal Scepter.
Always buy: Sight Wards
Avoid: Leviathan, Warmogs Armor
This standard tank build should allow you to tank effectively throughout the entire game. All of these items have HP (or fast regeneration with Force of Nature) which scales well with your passive.
Core Items Explained
Starting with Doran's shield allows you to stay in lane longer and regenerate HP.
Mercury treds allow you to not get CCed (crowd controll effects like stuns and slows) out of a fight, so you can do your job as tank. Only rarely will you find yourself getting Ninja Tabi.
Heart of Gold allows you to generate gold per 10 (commonly mistaken for gp5) so that you can allow your dual lane partner to get most of the farm.
Sunfire Cape allows you to be in the middle of the action while dealing extra bonus damage around you. It will also help you to clear creep waves quickly.
These items depend on the rest of your team and enemy team composition. They either support your team (Aegis), allow you to setup kills (Rylai's procs your Q), or taunt enemies. Use your judgement to pick the most effective combination.
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Tips for Putting it All Together
In teamfights, as the tank, you should always be protecting and supporting your carries and interfering with the enemy's carries. This means taunting enemies away from your team so that they can focus on a single target before proceeding to the next. One great tactic is to split push another lane while the rest of your team pushes a lane together (ideally 4v5). If you see your team getting into a fight, be ready to ultimate to their side and join the fight to make it a 5v5. By split pushing an alternate lane, this puts increased pressure on the enemy. They will have to send 1-2 people to defend the lane you are pushing. And once the fight starts, you can instantly be there for your team, while they are stuck at a distant location of the map. Shen's ultimate can also be used to join another split-pushing champion to take down turrets even faster.
Once you master the basics of tank shen, try out various other builds, mix in more AP for more damage/shielding or try a whole new build of jungle Shen, taking smite and experience masteries (1/21/8) instead of 9/0/21. As a jungle, you pressure all of the lanes and the enemy will be wary about pushing their lane for fear of you ulting in or taunting in behind them.
By using this build as an outline and using your ultiamte effectively, you should be able to win a majority of games for your team! Shen is a formidable tank champion that is able take hits and keep the enemy in place. If you like the idea of being able to protect your team, even from the opposite side of the map at times, Shen is a perfect fit. While energy and skill management may seem daunting at first, with diligence and practice, you will find this ninja to be one formidable tank.
- Images Used: Images and screenshots used belong to their respective copyright holders (Riot Games/League of Legends).
- Source: Author's own experience.