“River Shen” was the talk of the town during Team Solomid’s 2020 LCS Summer triumph. Mingyi ‘Spica’ Lu piloted the top laner perfectly in the jungle to set TSM up for their first domestic title since 2017. Since then though, Shen jungle has been picking up steam in other regions, and in solo queue. Here’s why.
Shen has been a popular pick towards the tail end of Season 10. He has received a number of buffs, most notably in Patch 10.6 upping his damage to monsters and a buff to his Ki Barrier shield in Patch 10.16.
The two changes in tandem haven’t just led to a rise of Shen in the top lane — and even in support — but a return to an old classic, Shen jungle. The pick, jokingly coined “River Shen” by the community (not to be confused with the meme River Shen taking Ignite-Exhaust), is making its resurgence thanks to new jungler on the block, TSM’s Spica.
Why is Shen jungle popular all of a sudden?
To talk about Shen jungle, it’d be remiss to ignore its legacy in League of Legends. While it might seem like a quirky pick to most new players, it’s actually an old favorite if we go way back to Season 2 and 3.
It was a CloudTemplar special, with the Korean godfather of the jungle picking it 29 times across his pro career — his most played by far. He held a 75.9% win rate with Shen, dominating not only the domestic scene, but the international scene with it.
The old Shen had good jungle clear with his kit, including life steal on his Q, and a low cooldown shield on his W. Paired with old jungle items like Wriggle’s Lantern or Bloodrazor, Shen was a tank that could hold his own in a fight (sound familiar, Ornn players?).
Across all 10 seasons of pro play, Shen jungle boasts a 51.45% win rate, according to Leaguepedia. However, the majority of these games were before Shen’s 2016 rework. Since then, it’s only been played 25 times, compared to 100+ games before then.
However, that was then. This is now. Shen jungle has made a new rise thanks to two factors. One, recent buffs have made his jungle clear a lot more efficient, with extra damage to monsters on his Q. Two, pros have been playing it — including Spica and G2’s Jankos.
Watch CloudTemplar in one of his most iconic Shen performances against Invictus Gaming at the Season 2 World Championship.
In solo queue, its playrate has almost doubled between Patch 10.16 and 10.18, lining up with when TSM jungler Spica pulled it out for the first time in LCS playoffs against Team Liquid. While Shen’s jungle win rate in solo queue still sits below 50%, as more players pick him up, that’ll probably rise.
It’s only got a presence in the West right now, but don’t be surprised if Shen jungle returns to its home of Korea. In an interview during the LCK Regional Qualifiers, Afreeca Freecs jungler Spirit noted the team is looking into the pick in the lead up to Worlds 2020.
“Jungle Shen used to be played often back when I played against CloudTemplar. It seems that it’s hot in the western leagues. We’re well aware of it. You may find out what our coach thinks of it [against T1],” he said.
How to play Shen jungle
Shen jungle has been played similarly to Ivern jungle. His main ability isn’t necessarily dishing out the damage, but protecting and enabling his carries to dive deep into a fight and lock up the backline. For this, he pairs well with solo laners like Camille, Irelia, or even LeBlanc — who can take Shen to the backline without much hassle.
Shen has really potent level two gank potential, if you so choose. His taunt is one of the best crowd control abilities in the game, especially at early levels.
If you can lock down a target with it, they’re more than likely dead. Spica did exactly this against Team Liquid, running bot lane before they hit Level 2 in one game to get an early kill for Doublelift.
Watch TSM's Spica path perfectly to shut down Liquid's bot lane early on in their Game 5 decider in the LCS 2020 Summer Playoffs. Game begins at 7:33.
By maxing Q, he can clear his jungle relatively efficiently, except for his Raptor camp. His W also acts as good counter-jungle protection — if he is invaded by a Kindred, Olaf, or another auto-attack reliant jungler, he can usually swing the duel in his favor with the barrier. Q-E-W max, however, is the typical ability order.
Shen’s jungle items are focused on providing a heavy frontline for the team, as well as utility for the carries. The popular build right now includes Cinderhulk, Dead Man’s Plate, Locket of the Iron Solari, Knight’s Vow, and even Redemption. See the Ivern similarities?
Depending on the matchup, Shen can take Grasp of the Undying or Press The Attack. If you really need to be a strong frontliner and see yourself taking many fights, opt for the former. If you need that extra kick of damage, take the latter.
You can choose to partner this with conventional Sorcery secondary runes like Waterwalking and Nimbus Cloak, or a more aggressive Domination setup with Ultimate Hunter and Zombie Ward (or Ghost Poro).
Watch G2's Jankos use Shen jungle to help out his solo laners take down Fnatic in Game 1 of the LEC 2020 Summer Finals. Game starts at 8:48.
In fights, you’d usually want to try and use your ultimate to enable your carries to dive into the fight. If you can time it with the team’s engage, not only will you be taken into the enemy team, but your ally will be handily protected. Pairing this with a Knight’s Vow when you land makes you and your ally almost unkillable.
Otherwise, Shen jungle just plays out like a normal Shen game. It’s not awfully tricky — he’s one of the easier junglers to learn — and can provide a healthy dose of utility for your team.
While Shen is strong, now is the time to pick him up, and maybe he can lead you to solo queue success like it led TSM to LCS glory for the first time in three years.