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Introduction to Shen
Like many of the more recent heroes, Shen's playstyle is completely different from any other champion in League of Legends. This makes him a poor choice for beginners and a great choice for advanced players looking for a challenge. What makes Shen unique is his power system - instead of using mana or health, he has an energy bar that is much smaller than a mana bar but regenerates much quicker. This means that he can use his abilities more often, but has to be tactical about using them or risk not having the energy when needed.
Shen is listed as, among other things, Fighter, Tank, Tough, Support (and of course, Ninja). While some heroes do not fit their descriptors well, these adjectives describe Shen perfectly. No matter how you build him, he will be tough, good at melee and great at support. Shen belongs in the heart of the fight, distracting, disabling and destroying enemies and escaping into the night.
Shen does not have as much build variance as other champions, but there are a couple of different schools of thought. Regardless, Shen wants to capitalize on his passive by stacking HP. The most solid and popular build for Shen involves traditional HP tank items and a Frozen Mallet to add to his utility. A quirkier, but also effective, build rushes a Rylai's for better harassment with Vorpal Blade and moves on to other tank/utility AP items.
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Shen - Mastery Choices
Like Mordekaiser and Mundo, Shen's lack of mana closes off large portions of the utility tree, which provides great benefit to mana based casters but has less to offer if mana regen is useless. Though you can get to the top of the tree without spending points in mana regen, it is a better idea to put your points elsewhere. On the other hand, Shen benefits greatly from the defensive tree - Veteran's Scars can provide Shen with survivability and burst damage at the start of the game and the Nimbleness skill (providing a speed boost after a dodge) fit both his playstyle and champion flavor extremely well. No matter what you choose, consider putting at least nine points in this tree.
Since you can expect to be attacking physically, the crit chance, damage and armor penetration talents in the offense tree are excellent as well. If you plan to play aggressively, or expect to be laning with an aggressive partner, consider putting more of your points in this tree - if you are building an AP Shen, then Archaic Knowledge is hard to pass up.
If there is a reason to delve into the utility tree, it's to improve your Ghost ability, which is excellent on Shen since he already has a Flash-like ability and needs the mobility more than the quick escape.
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Shen - Rune Choices
Shen's passive is deceptively powerful - though it may not seem like much, the combined effect of survivability and burst damage that increased hit points give you is significant. While your other rune choices are variable, you will want to seriously consider buying static HP Quintessences to make you even more powerful in the early game (HP Quintessences are a good thing to have in general - check out our Rune Guide for more information).
Marks: If you already have a page of Armor Pen or Crit Chance runes for other melee champions, these are perfectly ok to use on Shen - you are not Alistar, you need to be in the fray and attacking to make use of Ki Strike. If you are looking to be more tank-like, however, it is hard to go wrong with Greater Runes of Vitality (Scaling HP)
Seals: Greater Seals of Evasion (Dodge Chance) work well on Shen, as do Greater Seals of Defense and Resilience (Armor)
Glyphs: Greater Glyphs of Warding and Shielding (Magic Resist) provide helpful MRes, but Greater Glyphs of Celerity (Scaling CDR) are excellent for having Stand United, your ultimate, up more often.
Quintessences: Greater Quintessences of Fortitude (Static HP). Consider also move speed or dodge.
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Shen - Summoner Spells
Summoners spells depend largely on your playstyle, though Shen's abilities make some of them far less useful than on other champions. Though Flash can put a great deal of distance between you and the enemy team, at times it seems like overkill because Shadow Dash can serve a similar purpose. More useful is Ghost, which allows Shen to close with enemies, move into position to protect his teammates and chase over long distances - something that he is capable of doing with his large health pool and defensive abilities. It also allows him to take down towers even when enemies are missing.
Even more important is Cleanse - as a tank and initiator, you will be on the receiving end of a lot of disables and slows. Cleanse will allow you to stay mobile so you can help your team.
Ignite is also a good choice - though Shen is a tank, he has significant burst damage with Vorpal Blade and Ki Strike. Paired with a attentive team mate, this can mean first blood with little risk to yourself. Know how you intend to play and plan accordingly.
Additionally, since Shen is already strong and a great team hero, you may want to consider choosing a skill that will help your team - fortify, heal or even clarity, if you play with many casters (be wary of using this when solo queuing, other players may see this as a bad choice).
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Final Thoughts on the Pre-Game
Shen is a powerful hero all game, but especially so in the early game, when his high HP, mobility and burst make him a force to be reckoned with. The early game is when your masteries and runes will have the most effect, so plan accordingly. With HP Quintessences, defensive masteries and a Ruby Crystal, Shen can start with over 850 health. The effect this has on the laning phase is striking. Early game dominance means an early win or a stronger late game, so be prepared.
Stay tuned for parts two and three of this Shen guide
A champion guide to Shen the Eye of Twilight in League of Legends.