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For an outsider, the name INTZ might sound familiar -- they were the wildcard that managed to take a game off Chinese titans Edward Gaming at the last world championship. For the more invested Brazilian fan, however, INTZ is synonymous with regional dominance, a team that has won the 3 out of 5 CBLoL titles, and consistently places atop the standings through multiple roster iterations. Though their playoffs run ended in an unexpected upset, INTZ stands at first for the CBLoL regular season, and were recently favorites to represent Brazil on the international stage once more.
The regular split leaders still play mostly around meta comps, but recently have shown a trick up their sleeve: support Shen. They’re 4-0 with the pocket pick, and it’s quickly become the most frequently banned champion against the team. Brazil keeps support Shen away from INTZ at all costs, and we’ll break down the strengths behind the play.
THE FLEX ADVANTAGE
Shen becomes a flex pick in the hands of a team willing to put him in the botlane. In some situations, INTZ will grab it early, then wait to see more of the enemy composition before deciding what position he will be played in. Top laner Ayel has yet to play the champion on stage, but it is likely in his wheelhouse given his wide champion pool.
We saw this strategy used to great effect in INTZ’s very first support Shen game. After seeing RED Canids pick up Rumble, they switch Shen to support and are able to respond with a Camille, who will struggle early but eventually becoming the bigger side lane threat. Shen’s flexibility gave INTZ the opportunity to swap a tepid lane matchup into a favorable split-push composition.
As a support, Shen performs better than one may expect. He works best versus this meta’s popular melee supports; he can step up and use his Q to trade, and hitting taunt is fairly easy. Patch 7.8 saw nerfs to Shen’s Q damage versus non champions, but a small buff to his damage against champions (and one that doesn’t depend on ranks as it scales with champion level).
Spirit’s Refuge can be invaluable in short trades to block incoming basic attacks, and it will block Braum and Tahm Kench’s passive stacks as well. Versus Ranged supports, he might have a harder time, but having energy over mana makes his lane sustain strong, allowing him to use Ki Barrier to negate fair amounts of poke.
Shen's damage in an all in is around 50% of a target’s health with taunt + 3 autos; with ignite -- which Jockster always takes to play the lane aggressively -- we're talking about 60-65%. That’s all in power that few supports can match, and INTZ’s success shows it. In three of their four games, INTZ came out ahead from the bot lane, picking up first blood in two of their matches and even turning around a 2v3 scenario in another.
SHEN SUPPORT IN SPLIT PUSH COMPOSITIONS
Shen might provide some drafting pressure and early lane strength, but the real key to how INTZ uses support Shen is how he can link up with a split pusher. Ayel is a player that excels in the split pushing role, and ever since he joined INTZ last split, the team has frequently seen split push compositions as one of their main identities. In fact, Fiora is banned in 50% of INTZ’s games. This is what makes the support Shen pick so much more valuable to INTZ over other popular engage or melee supports.
Let’s have a look at how INTZ sets up against more laning dominant picks and allows their split pusher to grow and succeed.
In one of their matches against RED Canids, INTZ’s Camille is facing a tough lane against Rumble. She is typically pressured early and is forced to itemize defensively. If Camille can survive the lane, she’ll eventually outscale him and become a split push threat, but she needs to get enough gold before the matchup turns.
Luckily for INTZ’s toplaner, who is slightly behind and can’t win duels yet, the Shen’s presence allows Ayel to take a fight and start building his lead earlier than usual.
Earlier in the same game, Camille is caught out, but then in comes support Shen. His arrival and Camille’s ultimate buy enough time for the rest of INTZ to arrive and save their split pusher, taking a kill before retreating.
In another Shen support game against ProGaming, Jockster hits 6, immediately moves into the brush, and ults Ayel on Fiora, allowing her to move in for an aggressive kill on a flashless Rumble.
Fiora is now comfortably ahead as she pressures Rumble at his second tier turret. Later, ProGaming try to punish this by moving in for a 3v1, but Jockster comes in with an ult on Fiora. The shield and presence of an extra member allows them to turn the fight and almost grab kills, forcing three members back and gaining control over the map.
Overall, Support Shen transforms the dynamic of a split pushing composition. He empowers the split pusher to force duels or tower dives and generally can allow the split pusher to take more risks, as he can come in to turn around disadvantageous situations. Stand United functions similarly to a Soraka Ultimate, with the added bonus of bringing in a teammate to provide extra crowd control and damage.
INTZ are also developing a different lane assignment tactic with the pick. They’ll often split their members by running a 2-2-1 across the map. The enemy team will often react, sending multiple members to stop the most pushed lane. At that moment, Shen will ult into the group and another member will teleport or roam to join, leaving 4 INTZ members facing the full opposing team, and their AD carry alone to push a now-empty lane. Typically, INTZ will also draft a push-heavy carry like Varus or Xayah, who can take full advantage of this quick-switch strategy.
Aside from his role as a split pushing aid, Shen can still fulfill multiple roles in fights. If engage is lacking for his team, a taunt flash combination is the best way to open hostilities to surprise the opposition. He can also enable bruisers and fighters to move forward and flank, with his ultimate guaranteeing they don’t get blown up instantly. Finally, between Stand United and Spirit’s Refuge, he can effectively help peel for the backline.
Shen might be more limited than other supports in some aspects. There are better primary engage champions, such as Alistar or Rakan; better pick champions that aren’t as dependent on flash, such as Thresh; or better backline peelers, such as the multitude of mage supports like Lulu or Janna. But Shen can contribute towards INTZ’s split push identity in ways no other support can. It’s a unique case of a team leveraging a champion for their own personal meta.