Wow i wrote a lot more than I was intending. Yay for breaks between class
Shen is the best tank in League of Legends (which is funny because he's more of a support hero than anything O_o). BUT WHAT ABOUT RAMMUS, you say, smugly. Rammus is literally banned in 100% of games and therefore he is not an actual champ in League of Legends. No other tank can bring to the table what shen does, so you'll see him banned a lot too. But when he's not...
Shen isn't particularly fun or exciting to play. If you've never played him, he plays like a slightly beefier Xin Zhao. If you've never played Xin Zhao, he plays like reading a book - boring and methodical but important (to the team).
Please only use this guide if you're using the Surgeon Shen skin. Surgeon Shen is the best skin in the game hands down (okay nurse akali is p great too) and I don't want to share my wealth of shen knowledge with you if you're going to be using shit like yellow jacket shen. weak.
Summoner Spells: Due to his extreme mobility, shen has a few options for summoner spells. Ghost, Flash, Teleport, Clairvoyance, Ignite, Cleanse, and Exhaust are all viable options on him. I prefer Ghost/Teleport to further exaggerate his ability to get around the map, but any combination of the above spells is great.
Masteries: I've set up shen with several different mastery sets as well.
Your basic setup is going to be x/21/x, with 2 points in dodge instead of 3 in strength of spirit, and an extra point in harden skin. If you choose 9/21/0, grab 3 crit strikes and one AP, 4 cooldown, and then either ignite mastery/15% spell pen. If you choose 0/21/9, ghost mastery, good hands, exp bonus, greed.
An alternate setup is 0/9/21 (or 3/6/21). Use this if you've got a true tank in your comp and you need your summoner spells (teleport especially) to always be available. Unfortunately the utility tree is a cruel mistress to ninjas, so you're going to have to invest in a lot of things you absolutely don't need to get up to 15% CDR on summoners
In the jungle and in some cases in lane, you can also run 0/15/15 or 0/14/16. That's going to give you movespeed but hurt you defensively AND not give you the summoners cooldown. You're a brave, cocky soul if you take this route.
Runes: Movespeed/HP quints are a tossup. HP quints with defensive mastery and doran's shield will put you in lane at level 1 with 790 HP which is absolutely nothing to scoff at and can win you lanes early. *edit: HP runes and vet scars masteries are being nerfed this patch, these numbers will change* Movespeed quints are fking awesome tho, so don't discount those.
Flat magic pen reds
(again, alternately you can opt for flat yellows and blues for an even stronger earlygame, but you're gimping yourself late if you do this)
Skill Order: Q first is 99% of the time. If you open with taunt, you're going to get bullied in lane, but if you think it will get you or your carry first blood in a teamfight, be my guest. Getting W before level 10 isn't really necessary UNLESS you know you'll be laning against someone with a slow projectile, a D-O-T, or Ignite. If so, grab one level of W at level 2 and then ignore it until later.
Your primary skill order is going to be:
QEQEQRQEQ-> R>E>W unless you have a specific need for W.
Item Build: Your core build is mercs and a single sunfire cape. How you get there is up to you, and being able to read how your game is going. A general guideline is
Doran's Shield -> 1-2 Hearts of Gold OR Aegis -> Merc Treads -> Giant's Belt -> Sunfire -> ->Randuins -> Magic Resist as necessary.
Doran's Shield + health pot is non-negotiable. It's hands down the best item shen can open with.
Health Pendant will get you bullied in lane by ranged champs and you don't need to rush Force of Nature.
Cloth armor + 5pots works in the jungle but don't bring that weak sauce to lane. For a tank, Shen has hp problems and you don't want to highlight that.
Okay so he has hp problems, open Health Gem right? Wrong. Never open health gem, are you crazy? Do you think vorpal blades give you enough regen that you don't need any passive regen? You realize you can't use strength of spirit so you're gimped in that regard right? Gosh you're dumb.
LONG SWORD? FOR WHAT? JUST NO.
Okay so you grabbed doran's shield. Good job. How is your farm doing?
Did you get first blood? Port home and grab boots and another health pot.
Did you give first blood? Wow you suck, grab some more health pots and enjoy the tongue lashing from your teammates.
Are you being zoned? Investing in boots first might not be a great idea. If zoned by a magic champ, grab null mantle. If zoned by some ranged carries, consider cloth armor or health gem.
Are you zoning someone and deferring farm to your lane partner? Don't port back, keep zoning.
Are you being a dick and taking all the farm? First trip back gets you boots and a heart of gold, and a ward for your lane.
Are you taking ALL the farm?? First trip back gets you giant's belt and mercs and a ward.
Did you get first blood, take ALL the farm, AND zone your opponent in a 1v1 top lane? Wow you probably don't need this guide because you just got an 11 minute sunfire (not at all unreasonable, I've gotten it at 9 minutes before).
Basically what I'm getting at here is that in an average game, you'll be shooting for 1-2 hearts of gold as soon as you can. This might be a port-home at 10 minutes to buy one HoG and another cloth armor, and then finishing your second one and grabbing boots at 13 minutes. In a game that's going REALLY well, skip the hearts of gold and straight rush Sunfire cape. If you can get sunfire cape before any towers are down, you're in GREAT shape. You'll want to grab the giant's belt first no matter what though. If you're sitting at 1000 gold and considering the chainmail, the answer is no. Get the HoG first instead and get your funfire later.
When to finish your mercs (also a non-negotiable item) is also a variable. If your opponents are magic heavy but not stun-heavy, consider just the null mantle and finish the boots later. If they're stun heavy, finish mercs after first HoG. If they have a lot of dps champs, you can finish your mercs after your sunfire.
What about Leviathan? Well honestly that's up to you. If you're in that weird place where you're dominating the other team but not getting a lot of farm, you can consider it. But leviathan is a weird stack item because you generally get it on tanks... and tanks are supposed to die for their teammates... and shen's not even a great tank so you'll be eating the bullet a lot more often than Rammus/Amumu would. On the other hand, a decent shen can rack up assists like it's his job (it is). I personally would put that 1200-something gold towards a giant's belt in all cases instead.
When it comes to the magic defense, things get tricky with shen. He has no mana so you're wasting a large chunk of money on the mana crystal and catalyst, BUT the spell shield is so amazingly good it might be worth it. Force of nature is a no-brainer late-game if you can afford it. Negatron first, kids. Quicksilver is fine if you're cheap and they've got stuns. Spirit Visage is an emergency item if you're behind and need a stat boost immediately and you can't invest in a *true* defensive item; also consider it if you've got healer(s).
Why not frozen mallet? Every other guide says get frozen mallet. Because Frozen Mallet is insanely expensive for giving you pure HP and a shitty passive. Why not atmas? Because you're getting your armor from real defensive items, you have no use for crit, and upping your AD by 30-40 isn't really going to make a difference on shen. Why not warmogs? Actually, warmogs might be decent on him now that it's changed. The only problem is it *must* come after your sunfire and so you might be getting it late. Getting it late makes it hard to charge, which makes it inefficient.
Shen's a BEAST in lane (with doran's shield), and also a potential jungler. I don't recommend putting him in the jungle because he's not very fast, he doesn't have a *terribly* good level 4 gank, and he's a BEAST in lane. One thing to note is that even though Shen jungle is slow, it's also very safe. You'll stay at high HP due to vorpal and escaping ganks is easy with taunt. So if jungling is what you want to do, get cloth + 5 pots, start blue, spam vorpal and don't waste your ki strikes on enemies that a normal hit would kill. QWQEQR, you don't need madreds so you're starting HoG into boots into HoG stack. I think the earliest shen can get dragon is level 5 but it's sooooo slow it's not even worth trying and you have to itemize for it and shit so fuck that. You can dash into the pit and smite steal it if you're a boss though.
Lane shen has several options:
(1) Solo top. Shen's a fine solo because of his hardiness with Doran's shield and his burst from Ki Strike combined with his vorpal harass. In a 1v2 situation, use vorpal to grab last hits safely, tower hug and try to taunt your opponents into the tower to take hits. In a 1v1 situation, abuse vorpal's insanely low CD to harass the enemy champ out of lane. Use Ki strike only on the enemy champ and last hit normally with auto attacks. You'll lose to Nidalee and Kennen, you'll beat vladimir pretty hard, you can beat mordekaiser by being extremely aggressive early and using vorpal/ki strike before he even reaches creeps at level 1 to zone him. Level 5 is when vorpal really starts to shine, so up your aggressiveness at that level. When you need health, burn your Ki strike, vorpal a high hp creep (siege creep mb?) and auto attack it once. Auto attacking twice doesn't give you double heal, it resets your first heal. With proper timing you can get two heals in from one vorpal, but don't start the second attack until your first one has healed (there's a buff indicator above your skills for it). Don't Vorpal and then Ki strike if you need to heal, as a ki strike that kills the enemy won't proc the heal, and if you have a heal started and then ki strike a vorpal'd enemy, you'll actually cancel your heal which is BULLSHIT. The downside of solo shen is that even though you'll hit level 6 early which is GOOD, you can't *use* your ult unless the jungler covers for you because you'll lose your tower if you do that. In this scenario it's entirely possible that you'll get a < 13 minute sunfire depending on if it was a harass-fest or mutual farming.
(2) Babysitter bottom. If you're laning with tristana or tryndamere, or any champ that needs farm more direly than you do, you must defer creep kills to them. Shen's got enough burst with vorpal and Ki to steal every last hit, but your lanemate will hate you if you do that and they need the items more than you do. Instead, abuse bushes and vorpal to harass the squishier opponent and keep them from farming. It's acceptable to use vorpal to snag a creep every now and then if you know your partner can't reach it, and yes do use your auto attack to last hit when given the opportunity but just don't be that asshole that gimps their own ashe by taking every last hit. You'll be buying the wards in this lane. When you hit 6 it's acceptable to ult to save someone because your lane partner can cover the lane. In this scenario you won't have enough farm for early sunfire, so you'll be grabbing HoG's instead.
(3) Babysittee bottom. If you're with a champ that needs farm even less than you do (janna, sona, taric, mundo, cho'gath, gragas, etc) then you DO get to be the dick that grabs *every* last hit with vorpal and ki strike. Make sure your partner knows this, though. Don't slack on harassing, Shen's burst combined with another stun can net you several kills in lane against a lot of champs. Swain, cho, taric, sion, leblanc are all gonna set you up nicely for kills. Tower diving is totally fine if you've got your summoners up, you're hardy enough to take a few hits to get a kill. Tower diving to your death, in order to secure first blood, is encouraged. The gold differential is more than worth the exp you'll lose while dead.
You've got your mercs and two HoG's or a sunfire and maybe a negatron, you've demolished your lane, and there are a couple towers down around the map. People are starting to group up to grab team objectives like dragon, buffs, and mini-pushes. This is your time to shine.
(1) You've got your sunfire and you were smart enough to take ghost/teleport. You have absolute map dominance right now. Run to an open lane and get EVERY creep and push the tower. If they send 2 people to stop you and there's another open lane, teleport there and farm that instead. If they send one person to stop you, KILL THEM. Shen's at his strongest right now. If they overcommit you can chase them down with taunt and ghost. Is your team pushing bot with 4 people? Great, push top with your sunfire, and force the other team to send someone to stop you. Once they do that, use your ult to shield your carry in the teamfight that's now breaking out bottom and suddenly it's a 5v4.
(2) You don't have your sunfire yet. Roam with with someone else looking for loners to gank. Check their jungle, ward their buffs, use your mobility to get great positioning on them. If you see your carry farming a lane and he's too dumb to notice that 3 people are MIA, get ready to shield him for the inevitable gank. You're in support mode, and you're going to get 15 assists in the next 15 minutes. In a teamfight, you want to make a beeline for their carry and try to chase them off, but also keep an eye on your carry. If that means coming back and taunting people to get them off your tristana, do that. If it means keeping their twitch busy and focused on you and then ulting to your carry, do that. You can chase really well, but don't waste time chasing nidalee, leblanc, galio, etc. Once those guys are out of your reach they're going to stay out of your reach so don't bother. If you've got an aegis, you're providing huge stats to your team for free, make sure they take advantage of that
(3) You're REALLY dominating. Good! You need to end the game quickly and use your advantage to get baron/dragon/towers/buffs/win teamfights as soon as possible. This is because shen really hates the...
Ewww, the game dragged out and now you have to deal with the heavy hitters that finally have their good items. Suddenly your ult, which seemed imba 6 levels ago, isn't doing jack shit, because 700 damage absorption is next to nothing when your carry is being focused by 5 people. And what's worse, shen himself has poor stat growth, so your early game hardiness doesn't translate well. If YOU get focused, unless you're insanely farmed, you're gonna drop like a fly. You don't have the damage mitigation of galio and rammus and mordekaiser (your shield is okay and does scale with armor/mres its just not spammable enough) or the regen of mundo or the ability to bum rush a carry like olaf. If your team doesn't have a true hard tank, you better pray for the other team to make a mistake, cause you just can't compete with garen and galio and cho'gath at this stage of the game.
Consider rounding off your item build with thornmail, randuins, Abyssal scepter, guardian angel (meh), starks, or whatever your team needs. You're a support hero now.
Always let the carry get the last hit for a kill if you can. You want to end 1-5-25 if at all possible, not 10-5-10.