In Depth: Shen, the Eye of Twilight

Introduction


Hello and welcome to A DIFFerent View. Today I will be talking about Shen, who was buffed a while ago and switched from being one of the most underplayed champions in the game to one of the most banned and picked champions. I will be explaining some of the reasons why he is so strong, how to utilize his strengths, and talking about some of his weaknesses. I am not a professional player by any means, but I'm a gold level player that knows a lot about this game and I watch and study streams often. I will explain concepts about both top lane and jungle Shen

 

The Abilities


Let's take a look at the abilities that make Shen so strong:

The buffing of this ability is probably the main reason why Shen became so strong. It's a passive that scales with both Health and Attack Speed. With proper runes and masteries this spell can easily deal 20 damage at level 1, and over 200 damage at level 18 with some health items. The reduced time from attacking also helped make Shen a viable jungler that has even been seen in competitive play. The restoring of energy is also incredibly useful and allows Shen to continue casting spells in teamfights as long as he autoattacks.

This ability is part of why Shen can be such a pain in the laning phase. He can throw these at you to harass all day simply he uses energy rather than mana. They also can heal him and his allies, and what's interesting about this ability is they get more health based on Shen's maximum health. This another reason why Shen is such a great champion, he has 2 abilities that scale with a defensive stat. Because of this spells poke and sustain, it is typically maxed first on Shen.

Before Shen was buffed this spell was known to be considerably weak. But when Riot changed up Shen's passive, they decided to add an additional effect to this spell, the ability to furthermore reduce the cooldown of his passive. This shield spell not only blocks damage, but now also increases his damage output. As I said in my past article about Urgot, champions with low cooldown shields are usually pretty strong, and Shen is no exception. The ability to block 250 or more damage every 5 seconds can easily add up to thousands of damage blocked in a teamfight. Also because it lowers the cooldown of Ki Strike, which restores energy, it is very efficient. This spell is typically maxed second on Shen, but if you're having a tough time in lane it may not be bad to take 2 or 3 points of it early.

Shen's ability to control his enemies. Another significant buff to Shen was that this ability deals damage to champions. Even though it may be minimal, an extra 50 damage early game can certainly help in a trade or gank. The biggest problem with this ability is its high energy cost, taking away over half of Shen's base energy pool. But if he hits champions he will gain energy back and if he hits 3 or more champions the skill is at no cost and can even give energy back. From personal experience I've only ever hit 4 people at the same time once, but I can't really give myself credit for that over just saying my enemies weren't thinking their best when facechecking a brush with my ally Cassiopeia in it. This ability allows Shen to escape bad scenarios as well. When top lane you may want to take this spell at level 1 to escape early jungle ganks and play on the safe side, but if you're against a jungler who will likely not gank you early maybe because they are dependent on Blue buff or they don't have a strong level 2, then you can probably be safe taking Q at level 1. 

This is probably the reason why you picked Shen in the first place. A global ultimate that shields and ally and brings Shen to them. It remains the only global teleportation champion ability in the game, with the restriction that he has to teleport to an allied champion. A great change they made to this spell was the removal of an energy cost. Shen players no longer have to worry about saving 50 energy all the time if they want to save a teammate. It has a high shield strength, and even higher if you build some Ability Power. The problem with this ultimate for top lane Shen is that it takes him to his ally, this can be both good and bad. It's good if you want to do an objective after saving a teammate, it can allow you to come in and get kills or dragon when the enemy was playing aggressive. But leaving your lane can also result in the enemy top laner both getting free farmed, and getting towers. You must be careful when using this ability, it is best if you can save an ally and get some gold from kills or objectives afterwards. Also be careful that you don't use it too late and the ally dies anyways without you going anywhere. 

Runes and Masteries


Because Shen is typically a top laner, his runes and masteries can be very subject to change due to matchups, or if he is just jungling. Typically however, most Shens will take 21 points in Defense, in order to get things like bonus Health, reduced damage (Indomitable is an incredibly strong mastery), and some resistances. The other 9 points have many different options. You can put 3 of them into Expanded Mind for a bonus 10 energy throughout the game. Or you can put 9 in offense for some penetration. I would suggest going for Attack Speed and Armor Pen if you are jungling and CDR and Magic Pen if you are top lane. Ghost is also a very strong summoner spell on Shen as he doesn't always need Flash, making Summoner's Wrath a strong mastery to take if you are taking Ghost or possibly Exhaust. Taking it for Ignite is a preference, personally I don't like my opponents to know when my Ignite is on cooldown or not by seeing I have 5 AD and AP, but Shen can use the AP well and AD is decent on just about any champion, so I can see good reasons to take it as well. 

As for runes Shen has many different options as well. I think the only thing that should likely be mandatory is Armor Seals, as they are helpful in both top lane and jungle. When jungling Shen, Attack Speed marks are probably your best option. They allow you to use Ki Strike more often and generally just help clear time on most champions. You will probably want MR per level Glyphs to help you be tanky as the game progresses, and make sure that you don't get bursted down too easily. As for Quints there are a lot of options, you can take more Attack Speed and improve your jungle time, or Move Speed is also a great option to help ganks and general mobility. 

When top lane, Shen will have great benefits from Magic Pen marks as his main source of harass is his Q and his passive. Attack Speed could once again be an option to help his passive. Glyphs should likely be defensive, if you are in blind pick or don't have many rune pages, flat Magic Resist are probably your best option in case you are against a magic based champion top lane. But MR per level or even flat Armor can also be helpful. Shen has good options for Quintessences as well, I think the best three options would be Health, Movespeed, or Magic Pen. Health Quints are very effective as they help Shen win trades easily, they also give about 8 extra damage to every Ki Strike. You could even do a mix of Quints if you want, like 2 Movespeed and 1 Health Quint. 

Playing Against Shen


Because Shen seems to be such a problem, I figured I should include some tips about playing against Shen. First let's look at some of his weaknesses. First of all, he isn't the strongest pusher. This is one of the biggest weaknesses of Shen because his ultimate really encourages split pushing, but he doesn't have a good way to clear minions. Now, this doesn't mean that strong pushers beat Shen, in fact, a strength of Shen is his ability to tank minions with his Q and W. The way you can exploit this weakness is to pick a top laner that also has poor pushing powers as their bigger weakness, allowing them to not be as weak. Another weakness as previously discussed was that if he's top lane and ults, he is likely leaving top lane by itself, this means he is losing minions, the enemy can freely farm and push towers. If you can pick champions that can easily disengage when Shen begins to ult, you can make him come to a different lane and gain nothing out of it. Here are some examples of champions that are good picks against Shen:

Yorick: Yorick was the original pick against Shen when he was first buffed. He just seems to simply out-trade him as he does with most champions. Once he gets a Tear of the Goddess he has less and less mana issues throughout the game. If Shen leaves lane Yorick can use his ultimate to easily bring down a tower. 

Udyr: He was another discovered pick against Shen. He also seems to just win trades, with the high damage on his Q combined with the shielding and sustain from his W. He can usually just ignore Shen. Tiger Udyr's biggest weakness was his lack of pushing power, against Shen he doesn't really need to worry about it. And if Shen leaves lane, the large Attack Speed steroid from Udyr combined with some damage can kill towers quickly. Udyr also loves a lot of items that give Magic Resist, such as Wit's End, Spirit Visage, and Mercury Treads.

Janna: Now I don't mean top lane Janna, I mean support Janna. She is one of the best supports to disengage with. If Shen ults in at bottom lane, Janna can ult him away while giving her teammates some health back. This can usually keep the enemy team from forcing a tower or dragon and punish Shen for coming bottom lane. 

Akali: Akali is becoming popular again, and with recent buffs she is becoming stronger. Her spellvamp and high damage output usually allow her to trade with Shen, and once again her weak pushing skills aren't a problem. However, you must be very careful of ganks as Akali is somewhat fragile and Shen can be bursty. Akali's W is also very powerful against Shen as he has no spells to really damage her besides his E. But the taunt won't break her stealth or allow her to leave her shroud.

Also, make sure you keep his ultimate in mind once he hits level 6. When playing aggressive or trying to take an objective, think to yourself, "If Shen uses ult, will this horribly backfire?" A 250+ shield and another enemy out of nowhere will likely make things a more difficult, so keep it in mind. 

Itemization


Part of the reason why Shen is a stronger lane is his many item options, he can adapt to many different match-ups and has many different paths and item combinations to use. Here are some of the better of his options:

Mercury Treads/Ninja Tabi: This is somewhat obvious, Shen should be tanky and these boots help him do so. Even though Attack Speed and Magic Pen are good stats on him, it isn't really worth it to take Berserker's Greaves or Sorcerer's Shoes over these boots.

Doran's Shield: This item gives strong defensive stats. The Health Regen can be very helpful against Yorick as well. I would still recommend starting out with boots on Shen, but maybe picking up one of these on your first trip back for certain matchups. 

Heart of Gold: This is a generally good item on Shen. He scales with health and the bonus gold is nice. Both Randuin's Omen and Locket of the Iron Solari are good items on him, you will likely want Randuin's to be tankier, but Locket can be useful with his ultimate. Be careful building this item in the laning phase if you aren't doing to well, as 825 gold could be put to better use beyond 250 Health. 

Aegis of the Legion: This item is generally strong, I would recommend building it on Shen if no one else on your team is going to build it. It gives strong defensive stats at a low cost. 

Phage: Whether you end up building it into Frozen Mallet or Trinity Force it's a generally strong item on Shen. It allows you to stick to people and keep Ki Strikes up so you can deal extra damage and restore energy. Generally Frozen Mallet is the better option for bulkiness and consistent slows. But if you are already tanky and your team could use damage, Shen can make great use of Trinity Force procs with Q and W. 

Sunfire Cape: This has become a very popular item on Shen, mostly because of his poor pushing spells. I think this item works as long as you at least have Magic Pen marks, as its cost efficiency isn't the greatest without Magic Pen. It gives decent Armor and Health, but I think Randuin's is a better option if that's what you're looking for. 

Abyssal Scepter: I put this under Sunfire Cape for a reason. These two items have strong synergy and are one of my favorite item combinations on tank champions like Shen, Amumu, or Malphite. The reducing of Magic Resist works well with the Magic damage from Sunfire, this also gives Health, MR, Armor, and Ability Power. I think this item build works great on Shen if you are ahead, because then you will still be tanky from the lower resistances these items offer compared to other investments of gold.

Wit's End: As I said earlier, Shen's passive now scales with Attack Speed. Wit's End is a cheap and effective way to give Attack Speed, Magic Resist, and bonus Magic Damage. This is probably your best option for Attack Speed on Shen but there are a couple other potential options as well.

Madred's Bloodrazor: Now this may sound rather weird, but it makes some sense. This item fell out of popularity because it gives Armor, Attack Speed, and Attack Damage, but then also gives Magic Damage, something that usually isn't utilized by champions that may want it. However Shen with Magic Pen runes and possibly an Abyssal Scepter can make great use from Bloodrazor. He can taunt bruisers to keep his carries safe while also shredding their Health. Overall Wit's End will likely be a better option, but against some teams you may find yourself wanting to deal damage based on their maximum Health. 

Warmog's Armor: Shen scales well with Health, and this item gives a lot of it. It can give him great bulkyness and allow him to regain a lot of Health throughout a teamfight, while also giving his allies more Health due to Ki Strike. It also has good synergy with Force of Nature and combined can make Shen almost impossible to kill.

Rylai's Crystal Scepter: This item may also sound strange, you may be thinking why it should be bought over Frozen Mallet. The strong thing about Rylai's is it makes Shen a great kiter. Against a bad match-up like Udyr Shen can spam Q and get a full slow on him and keep him out of range all the time. It also allows you to get a projectile slow to follow up with a taunt. Ability Power is a strong stat on Shen especially if the item also gives defensive stats. 

Guardian Angel: Shen has great potential to use the unique passive of Guardian Angel. He will come back to life and have a dash away, a shield, and the ability to regenerate health from his Q. The item also gives great resistances, and is all around a good buy for Shen, especially if you have some damage items that may make you squishier. 

Conclusion


Shen is a very powerful support-tank champion. He can give his allies Health based on how much Health he has, and still has the only global teleportation ability in the game. His use of energy makes him very difficult to fight in lane, and two of his spells allow him to tank minions easily making it hard to push under his tower. Even though I absolutely love the change to his passive to make it scale with Attack Speed, I feel it would have been better if the cooldown was reduced when he get's autoattacked, therefore improving his jungle time but making him a less effective top laner. Thanks for reading and I would appreciate if you used to reddit upvote button below this.

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