Rush the Phage then figure out what you need next. As a bruiser you need to build to survive your opponent's damage type.
If you're anticipating lots of physical damage, get armor (chain vest)
If you're anticipating magic damage, then get Null Magic Mantel.
If CC, upgrade that NMM and boots into Merc Treads
If none are really a threat grab that Recurve for faster farming, or if things are sort of threatening but you can't decide, grab the Giant's belt in preparation for some sort of damage.
But yeah, you don't have to complete mallet immediately and in fact it's probably best not to as the money could go for something that would help you survive better or do more damage.
Don't listen to these wacky builds with Shen functioning as a bruiser if you want him to tank, sure it's viable, but fairly useless considering other options for mobile bruisers with supportive abilities. The builds your getting now are somewhat recycled J4 builds with some adjustments for a bruiser, that has no mana, in mind. Shen should generally build flat health early game, then working towards defensive stats later to work as a tank.
Runes ought to be mostly defensive, standard tank yellows and blues, attack speed reds if you jungle, or MPen, whichever you like more. Quints can be MPen, AP, Movespeed, Health, or GP10 for tank... or AS if you really want to play bruiser. Its worth noting that Shen has one of the highest Ultimate AP ratio in the game, and one of the higher total AP ratios. Stand United comes in at a whopping 1.35 AP ratio, Vorpal Blade has a .6, as does Feint, and Shadow Dash has a .5 AP ratio. Did I mention Stand United has an AP ratio over 1? 1.35 In fact.
Your first item is D# boots, either Mercs or Tabi, and Heart of Gold, then build a giants belt. Sunfire isn't as good an item as most people think. I build it all the time, just not on Shen, unless my team needs a strong split pusher. A good follow up to giants belt is Aegis, it works well with Shen if your support doesn't build it. If you're getting hammered by AP carries grab a Negatron, you can make a Force of Nature or Abyssal Scepter with it. If getting chopped up by AD's grab some armor and rush either a Sunfire if you only need a little armor or Thornmail if you're really in trouble, the latter synergizes well with Shadow Dash. Then work on the stat you didn't build, just a little bit to make sure you don't all of a sudden get destroyed by the enemy AP if you went for armor early, or vice versa. and toss some CDR into the build, Kindle gem into Zeke's isn't bad nor is kindle gem into Shurelyas, you can also buy Philostone if you feel the need for more gold. You should now work on more health and AP, adapting as you go.
Here's a quick rundown on this Shen build that isn't a wall-o-text.
-Mercury Treads or Ninja Tabi
-Locket or the Iron Solari (Or Randuin's Omen)
-Abyssal Scepter (If you have no other strong chasers on your team Force of Nature can help you grab those post-teamfight stragglers)
-Aegis, (Alternatively Guardian Angel)
-Shurelya's Reverie (If you didn't get Force of Nature, this will help with Shen who's generally fairly slow, also synergises well with Stand United)
-Rylai's Crystal Scepter (A far better option than Frozen Mallet in most cases)
If you want to use Shen's Tanking ability to full effect at the cost of some utility.
-Mercury Treads or Ninja Tabi
-Warmogs Armor (Dont rush, let giants belt sit for a while)
-Thornmail (Or Force of Nature or Quick-Silver Sash if you're getting wailed on by Magic Damage dealers)
As always you can mix things up to suit your needs, so adjust the build to the game and buy items as you need them.
OKAY... OKAY... FINE!
I'll tell you how to play Shen as a bruiser...
I hope you enjoy Shen as much as I do when he isn't banned, because he's one of the games best tanks and is very fun to play. GLHF and stuff.
P.S. Bruiser Shen is Pants-on-Head RETARDED
Alright, just let me say, if you MUST play him as a bruiser and not the amazing peeler he is otherwise, you should really try Olaf and Jarvan IV, they have great kits similar to Shens and function in the role of Jungle/Solo top bruiser much better than Shen. But he's a quick list of bruiser items that work well on Shen.
-Sunfire Cape (The 40 DPS adds up quickly, allowing you around 200-300 bonus damage per fight to targets you stay close to)
-Witt's End (Defensive Heavy Bonus Magic damage and AS)
-Malady (Offensive Heavy Bonus Magic Damage and AS)
-Aegis of the Legion (Gives some AaD for otherwise all defensive Item)
-Warmogs (Flat health is the best way to boost Shen's damage)
-Frozen Mallet (Shen needs more CC if he wants to stick to his enemies)
-Atma's Impaler (Boosts Shen's Damage further if he builds health)
-Randuin's Omen (You're a bruiser after all)
-Thornmail (derr durr armor is good)
-Quick Silver Sash (Clears all debuffs, and gives you MR if you see enemy Bloodrazers, Also... it removes Nocturne's Ultimate, Paranoia (among others) for some hilarious counter ultimates)
Mix and match Items you like and think the game will allow you to use, be aware, as a bruiser, Shen is a mostly dysfunctional tank and peeler, so don't screw over your team by saying you'll function as the primary tank with this build. Also, be aware of enemies who appear to building Madred's Bloodrazer, If you see one coming together, build a large amount of MR through Force of Nature, Quick Silver Sash and Witt's End, and try to avoid taunting those enemies if possible.
Items to avoid...
-Frozen Heart (oh my gosh, don't make me explain this again)
-Banshee's Veil (derr durr mana is bad)
-Bloodthirster (Bad choice for most bruisers that don't scale well with AD)
-Hexdrinker/Maw of Malmortius (No Pure AD items, you scale well with health and attack speed, not AD, you also have no low-health functionality aside from running away, occasionall baiting, but mostly the former)
Trinity Force (Frozen Mallet is top priority, don't waste that 1500 gold on the second phage, unless you build Rylai's Crystal Scepter instead in a hybrid build)
Good luck & have fun with Jarvan... Sorry! Shen! My bad...
P.S. Here's a list of the debuffs you can laugh off with QSS, some of them are quite funny...
FYI, don't build a pure tank Shen. It's not a good idea. Shen isn't a Disruptor like Leona or Alistair. His taunt is on a long cooldown. It's a great disruption move, but it's his only disruption move. Shen HAS to build damage in order to be significant in team fights. At higher Elo, no one is going to bother focusing a Shen who has no damage. After that taunt wears off, it's back to murdering your squishier teammates for the next 8 seconds while your cooldown refreshes.
Thornmail is a horrible idea. It might work at the <1200 Elo range, but at any Elo above that Thornmail is a highly situational pick. Once again, no one is going to bother attacking you if you don't give them a reason to.
Shurelia's has that useless mana-regen component and takes a decent amount of cash to build into. Cash that you probably can't spare.
The ulti does have a great AP ratio scaling, but it's a long cooldown for a shield and a teleport. Great ability, but limited teamfight usage. I haven't experimented with AP shen much because it seems very limited and not very energy efficient. Bruiser shen builds some good AS and that translates into more ki-strike and thus more energy.
If you go AP shen, I would mix it with support, so you're effective an AP/Support. Even then, I would prioritize the Support items over the AP ones.
Champions like Jarvan have more CC options (Knockup, slow, wall). Additionally, Jarvan has a damage boosts that is scale naturally without any items. His Martial cadence only procs once per 6 seconds regardless of your AS, and his armor debuff does the same regardless of items.
On the other hand, Shen needs to be itemized to output damage (and incidentally, scales better with damage/tank items)
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