Shen is known as a strong top laner with great early game dueling power and global presence, but the ninja is starting to see play in the jungle as well. But what makes Shen a strong jungler?
Shen was picked up by Team SoloMid jungler Mingyi “Spica” Lu in the 2020 LCS Summer Split lower bracket final against Team Liquid. The pick came as a surprise to fans as well as Liquid themselves. Spica picked Shen in the last two games of the five-game series and was a huge part of the TSM comeback.
Only a few hours later, Shen jungle also made his debut in the LEC where G2 Esports jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski picked him in the first game of the LEC Summer final. According to Rasmus “Caps” Winther, G2 saw TSM succeed with the pick and wanted to take advantage of the niche pick. Jankos went on to carry the game for his team, even though the team had not practiced the composition beforehand.
“We didn’t actually practice this comp, we saw TSM play it yesterday and then we thought it made sense. We should play it today as well. Then we did. I’m pretty happy for that. Thank you TSM.” – @G2Perkz pic.twitter.com/6lhtUqGvE3
— Travis Gafford (@TravisGafford) September 6, 2020
The jungle Shen pick threw off many fans and left them wondering how that pick could work so well despite being so rarely played. New picks in competitive play are usually discovered through solo queue, but Shen jungle is not even tracked from platinum ELO and up on patch 10.16. This means that jungle Shen is very rarely played, normally appearing in the top lane.
I don’t have any matchups with 30+ GP for Shen Jungle in D1+ solo queue on patch 10.16.
— Tim Sevenhuysen (@TimSevenhuysen) September 5, 2020
Shen is unique compared to other junglers because he has a global ultimate. Similarly to Nocturne, Shen can pull off unexpected ganks that are hard for the enemy to prepare for. This forces enemy laners to play safe whenever Shen has his ultimate ready, even though he might not be close. TSM figured this out and used it against Liquid to constantly apply pressure on them throughout the laning phase.
Shen also has a kit that will naturally soak up a lot of damage, making Shen a great frontliner. Having a tank in the jungler gives room for a carry champion in the top lane, which TSM and G2 both took advantage of.
Shen got a buff to his passive Ki Barrier in patch 10.15, giving him a higher shield value. The buff might be another reason for his appearance in the jungle, giving him a more sustainable jungle clear.
Shen still has one weak point in the jungle, which is his clearing speed. Shen lacks AOE damage, resulting in slow clear on camps such as Raptors and Krugs. This will slow down his early game, but as soon as he gets Cinderhulk, his clear will be fine.
It’s still hard to say if Shen jungle is a top-tier pick or if the surprise factor made him strong for TSM and G2, but it does look like Shen is at least good in the jungle. We will have to wait for the 2020 World Championship to see if his presence continues. Until then, he will most likely be played in solo queue.