Shen, the Eye of the Twilight, is one of the best utility top laners in League of Legends. With a 50.35% win rate and a 4.81% play rate, he’s all about splitpushing, providing cross-map presence and setting up his teammates to carry. Let’s see how you can use Shen to climb the Solo Queue ladder!
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Passive: Ki Barrier
When Shen uses an ability, he shields himself for 2.5 seconds. If the ability that triggered the shield affected at least one champion, Ki Barrier’s cooldown is reduced. Shield strength scales off bonus health. Shen carries a Spirit Blade that he uses to control his spells.
How to use: Ki Barrier provides a fair share of tankiness. You want to use it as soon as possible, although most of the time, it will just happen on its own when you land Shadow Dash [E] or activate Twilight Assault [Q].
That being said, you don’t necessarily have to go on the offensive to proc your Ki Barrier, and Spirit’s Refuge [W] and Stand United [R] will also grant you a shield. Try to space out your abilities in drawn-out fights to get as many shields as possible.
Q: Twilight Assault
Shen calls his Spirit Blade to his location. Enemies hit by the blade are slowed by 35% for 2 seconds when moving away from Shen. Once Spirit Blade arrives, Shen’s next three auto attacks within 8 seconds gain increased range and deal bonus magic damage. If the Spirit Blade affects an enemy champion, Shen receives 50% bonus attack speed. Empowered attacks deal 200% damage against monsters.
How to Use: Twilight Assault is your main source of damage. Your empowered auto attacks definitely sting, which, combined with Ki Barrier and Shadow Dash’s [E] crowd control, makes it easy to win trades. Also, the bonus damage is quite handy when CSing under your turret.
Once you unlock Shadow Dash [E], Twilight Assault will restore energy, so use this to your advantage. The best time to cast the ability is when you’ve hit a champion with a taunt because they won’t be able to dodge your Spirit Blade in time.
W: Spirit’s Refuge
Shen charges his Spirit Blade with energy, causing it to create a protective zone for 1.75 seconds. All allies within the zone dodge enemy auto attacks. Spirit’s Refuge activates when he or his allies get close to the Spirit Blade within 2 seconds of Shen casting the ability.
How to use: Spirit’s Refuge is absolutely insane against AA-based champions. Whether it’s bruisers, assassins, or even marksmen, you can avoid the bulk of their damage by clicking your W. Of course, it won’t do much against abilities, so good timing is paramount. Also, keep in mind that Spirit’s Refuge protects your allies too, and you can save a lot of lives by using it in teamfights and skirmishes.
E: Shadow Dash
Passive: Dealing damage with Shadow Dash and Twilight Assault [Q] restores energy.
Active: Shen dashes in the target direction, dealing damage to all enemies and monsters hit and taunting them for 1.5 seconds.
How to use: Shadow Dash deals a surprising amount of damage, but its real use is crowd control. You taunt all enemies you pass through, meaning you can even lock down the entire enemy team if you’re lucky.
Keep in mind that Shadow Dash can pass through most walls, and you can—and should—use it as an escape tool when things go south. Missing your taunt cripples your energy regeneration, so try to disengage if that happens. Also, if you cast your Flash on top of an enemy champion during a Shadow Dash, you will taunt them, making the combo extremely useful for long-range initiations.
R: Stand United
Shen channels for 3 seconds, applying a shield to the target allied champion for up to 5 seconds. The shield grows stronger for every 1% of target’s missing health. Once Shen completes his channel, he and his Spirit Blade teleport to the ally’s location.
How to use: This ultimate is the sole reason why Shen is picked. Stand United is effectively a Teleport, but on a shorter cooldown and with a shield on top of that. Use the spell to save your carries and secure the numbers advantage when your allies are fighting on the other side of the map. Of course, you need to have quite a bit of map awareness to know when to channel your ultimate, so watch your minimap like a hawk.
R > Q > E > W
Twilight Assault [Q] grants you the most damage, which is invaluable in the early game. Always max it first. Follow up with Shadow Dash [E] to get a lower cooldown on your taunt. Save Spirit’s Refuge [W] for last since it doesn’t really scale with levels. And don’t forget to invest points in Stand United [R] when possible.
Shen is a tank, so he wants to pick Resolve runes as his primary. Grasp of the Undying is the perfect keystone for a top laner because of its mix of damage and sustainability. Font of Life scales well with your E > Q combo, but consider replacing it with Demolish for more splitpushing presence. Then, there’s another choice. Conditioning is great for the late game, but Iron Skin/Mirror Shell is much better if you’re facing a tough lane matchup. Wrap up your Resolve tree with Second Wind to get more healing in lane.
For your second rune tree, pick Sorcery. The Ultimate Hat is amazing for the cooldown reduction on Stand United [R], and Transcendence works well for the same reason. If you want to make your presence known in the laning phase, swap out Transcendence in favor of Scorch.
Shen Summoner Spells
Shen is a top laner, so he doesn’t have many options when it comes to summoner spells. Grab Teleport for the cross-map presence (when your ult is down) and better back timings. Take Flash for clutch escapes and initiations.
1.) Titanic Hydra > Ninja Tabi > Sunfire Cape > Spirit Visage > Randuin’s Omen > Thornmail
Even though Shen is a tank, he doesn’t get as much ‘free’ damage as other champions in this role. Hence, Titanic Hydra becomes even more useful for its mix of scaling and wave clear. Usually, your biggest enemies are AD carries, so grab Ninja Tabi next to counter them. Follow up with Sunfire Cape. The item is insane in the early/mid stages of the game, and you can even rush it instead of Hydra if you need more armor for the laning phase.
Since you’ll most likely face one or two AP carries, getting some MR is a good idea. In this case, Spirit Visage is a solid option for the combination of health, CDR, and regen. Round out your build with Randuin’s Omen and Thornmail to make yourself even more durable against marksmen.
Shen Situational Items
When playing Shen, you always want to consider situational items. Mercury’s Treads are a solid alternative to Ninja Tabi if you’re facing hard crowd control. In a similar fashion, get Adaptive Helm against machinegun mages like Corki, Ryze, Cassiopeia.
Because you’re a bulky frontliner, you’ll often be able to walk out of teamfights with your life. This is where Warmog’s Armor can come in handy by replenishing your vast health pool in a matter of seconds. But even the tankiest champions can have a hard time against fed carries, so buy Gargoyle Stoneplate if you’re getting melted in teamfights. And while Banner of Command might seem gimmicky, it can be massive against AP top laners like Lissandra or Vladimir.
When to pick Shen?
Shen is a team-oriented tank that works best when you have a hypercarry that you want to protect. He’s a tank, so he’ll fit into most team compositions, but he works best with champions that can use their gap closers to jump into fights with Stand United [R]. Shen wants to spend the majority of his late game splitpushing, so it’s a good idea to make sure you have a decent matchup.
Shen Matchups and Counters
As a rule of thumb, most melee top laners are manageable for Shen. Champions like Irelia, Kled, Renekton, and Tryndamere will have a hard time breaking through his Ki Barrier and Spirit’s Refuge [W]. Even fellow tanks (Malphite, Galio, Sion) will struggle under the barrage of empowered auto attacks.
And then we have ranged champions. Top laners like Gnar, Jayce, Teemo, and Ekko are the bane of your existence, and you should avoid picking Shen into them if you can. Even hypercarries like Gangplank or Camille will have an easy time because you can’t punish their sluggish early game. Lane bullies that rely on abilities to deal the bulk of their damage can also be problematic, and champions like Vladimir, Pantheon, and Darius will make you beg your jungler for ganks.
Shen Laning Phase
While Shen’s early game isn’t his forte, he can be incredibly dangerous in the right hands. Most of it comes down to Spirit Blade positioning. You want to start your game with Doran’s Shield and a point in Twilight Assault [Q].
Walk into the laning phase and hide your Spirit Blade in one of the brushes. Your lane opponent won’t see the tether unless they facecheck the brush, meaning you can blindside them with a sudden Q from behind. If you manage to connect it, go for a trade. The slow and the extra attack speed will let you come out on top in most cases, apart from the ones when you’re facing one of your counters. From then on, keep your Spirit Blade in front of you and try to force more trades while rushing for level 2.
Once you unlock Shadow Dash [E], you get a lot of kill pressure. If you’ve traded well with Twilight Assault, your opponent should be fairly chunked, so go for the E > Q combo to force summoner spells or even a kill. You grow even stronger at level 3 when you gain access to Spirit’s Refuge [W].
Of course, you should avoid getting carried away. Shen is very strong when his abilities are up, but he’s lacking on his own. Once your empowered auto attacks run out, you don’t want to keep fighting (unless you have a huge lead over your opponents), so back away and wait for your cooldowns.
Naturally, things change quite a bit against ranged champions. If you’re lucky, they will get reckless and overstep their limits by getting in range of a Shadow Dash. But that doesn’t happen often. Most of the time, you’re better off farming under your turret with Twilight Assault. Use Spirit’s Refuge to mitigate enemy poke, and call for your jungler—after all, few champions can set up a gank as well as a tanky ninja.
Also, be mindful of ganks yourself. Even though Shen has a gap closer in Shadow Dash, you’re left wide open when you use it to initiate a trade. Only cast your taunt when you’re certain enemy jungler isn’t nearby. Otherwise, things could get ugly.
And remember that Shen doesn’t win most of his games in the laning phase. You reach your peak when you unlock Stand United [R] and start influencing other lanes. And that effectively means that you’ve reached the mid game.
Shen Mid Game
In the mid game, it’s your job to be in the side lane. Push minion waves and force the enemy top laner to match you, but don’t get dragged into a 1v1 unless you’re absolutely certain you can win. Because your main advantage lies in your ultimate.
A good Shen player is always looking for opportunities to assist his team. Of course, Stand United [R] can be interrupted, so it’s a good idea to step away from your lane opponent before using it. The perfect time to do so is when your team is sieging turrets or grouping around objectives, and we advise you to watch the minimap as much as you can. Hell, even something as simple as cycling your camera through your allies with F2-F5 keys will make you a much better Shen main.
Once you teleport to an ally, the numbers advantage should be on your side. If you’ve picked a wounded teammate as your target, it’s a good idea to cast Spirit’s Refuge [W] on top of them and go for the E > Q combo onto their adversaries. If you’ve chosen an initiator, look for a good Shadow Dash [E] onto enemy carries and use your W to protect yourself. Chances are you won’t be killing anyone on your own, but your crowd control will be essential for setting up kills.
Also, sometimes it’s worth grouping with your teammates even when your ultimate is up. Granted, it doesn’t happen often, but if the enemy team has strong initiators, you might want to stay grouped with your carries. In this case, cast Stand United as a shield when one of your carries gets focused.
Shen Late Game
Shen’s playstyle doesn’t change much in the late game. You still want to be in the side lane, although most top laners will start beating you in trades. Don’t worry, though, because you can protect your turrets with Titanic Hydra and Spirit’s Refuge [W]. And ultimately, you’re just waiting for your team to pull the trigger and initiate a fight on the other side of the map.
In general, you always want to play around Stand United [R]/Teleport. If both of these are down, ping your team to stay safe. Otherwise, look for any opportunity to jump into a 4v4 fight and bring the numbers advantage to your side. Once you get a pick, you can teleport back to your lane and counter enemy splitpush or secure a Baron or Elder Dragon. Afterward, rinse and repeat.
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Shen is the ultimate teamfighter. His kit is perfect for protecting teammates and locking down enemies. And while he doesn’t carry games on his own, he can set up his allies with amazing teamfighting opportunities, which is exactly what you want to do in Solo Queue.