League of Legends Guide: How to Play River Shen like Spica

League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /
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League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.
League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games. /

After TSM’s jungler Spica broke out the infamous “River Shen” in Games 4 and 5 against Team Liquid, we help to break it down.

Of all the crazy picks LCS fans got to see during the 2020 LCS season, there might not have been one that was more head-scratching then when TSM’s jungler Mingyi “Spica” Lu locked in Shen jungle in Game 4 of the LCS semifinals against Team Liquid. Dubbed “River Shen” based on an older meme about the early days of League of Legends (when a player would take Shen and walk up and down the river purely ganking and not even farming jungle camps), Spica played well enough on the champion to lead TSM to a victory in Game 4 and another in Game 5.

What was most interesting about the pick, though, was that it wasn’t a case of a solo queue-dominant pick coming into the pro meta, like Kayn or Evelynn jungle have in the past. On the current patch, Shen has a 1.9% pick rate as a jungler in Platinum and above in all regions, almost in line with the pick rate of mid lane Shen. So it’s not like River Shen is a thing that has been creeping towards being meta.

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However, now that it has been seen (twice) in LCS play (and with success), we thought it would be prudent to look at what River Shen is, how it works, and how to play this unique playstyle. Before you subject your solo queue teammates to this pick, make sure to try out River Shen in practice mode with this guide in hand.

The Rebirth of River Shen

River Shen peaked in popularity around the start of 2016, at a time when the jungle was reworked ahead of Season 6 to make the pace of the game slower, with farm-heavy junglers beginning to take over the meta. At the time, Shen’s weak early clear was largely hidden as he was able to scale alongside farming junglers like Hecarim, Udyr, and Master Yi.

However, even in Season 6 Shen’s popularity as a jungle pick never eclipsed a 2% pick rate and sharply fell off as the season progressed. So why is it now on the rise?

Well back in Patch 10.6, Riot was trying to bring more off-meta champions into the jungle. As a result, champions like Shen got a small boost to their jungle clear or survivability in the jungle. For Shen, it was a fairly large boost to the damage cap of his Twilight Assault, allowing him to do more damage to monsters.

Twilight Assault recalls Shen’s Spirit Blade to him, but also slows all enemies it passes through and empowers his next three basic attacks. These basic attacks to 100% bonus damage, up to a cap, which scales based on rank from 120 to 200, as opposed to the scaling of 75 to 175. This means, at rank five Shen will get 75 extra damage off when using his Twilight Assault (25 more damage for each of the three empowered attacks) but at rank one he will get 135 extra damage. That extra damage is very meaningful for Shen’s clear and since it’s only on an eight-second cooldown at rank one, he can proc it quite often in the jungle.

However, this bonus damage didn’t suddenly vault Shen into our solo queue tier list for junglers (let alone to the top of the tier list). The question still remains what benefits River Shen gives that made Spica want to pick him up?