By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
It’s time to take a look at the God released at the start of the Summer of Smite: Lu Bu! I mean, Erlang Shen! It’s easy to see where I might get that. Similar polearm, similar Phoenix pinions on his head ornament. Tall, girded in glorious armor, powerful and imposing – when I think of Lu Bu, this is what I think of. However, Lu Bu did not have a cool dog to bite people and Erlang Shen does. The Illustrious Sage is part man, part God. He defended the honor of the Jade Emperor, battling Sun Wukong across the land and sky. He too is a shapeshifter and utilizes that power in a variety of ways. He’s another “Average” difficulty God and for the most part I agree with that. The only challenging part to me is finding the right utility for his Ultimate, 9 Turns Blessing. It’s an ability you would typically see on a Guardian, which taunts everyone in a cone and gives him Damage Mitigation. And if he is still alive he gains health back? A man of wisdom and power, Erlang Shen descends to the Arena of the Immortals to dole out justice. Justice and ass-beatings. He gives these in equal amounts. Building half for defense and half for damage, he gets plenty of power just by being him; no need to stack tons of damage items!
Damage: His Passive is free damage in the form of his dog. Each basic attack comes with 15% of his Basic Attack Power, can Crit, which also triggers Basic Attack items for 15% as well. A little Attack Speed will go a long way. Not to mention his First Ability does increased damage and ignores movement penalties on basic attacks for the duration. Everything about him is power.
Crowd Control: This is a trend I’m seeing a lot of lately in Gods. More CC on them than ever before! Outside of using items, he has two, in Pin [though admittedly requires strong timing to cripple/root] and 9 Turns Blessing which can in theory taunt an entire team. That matters a lot to me.
His Ultimate: Sure, his ultimate has a taunt, a heal, and damage mitigation, but it’s so strange to see on a Warrior instead of a Guardian. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve popped it and wound up dying because the Mitigation just wasn’t enough to keep me safe. On a more beefy build it’s not so bad, but in the early going? It’s rough man. The taunt has a very short duration at rank 1, and the Mitigation does not last. Now you’ve pulled their team and they’re mad. You MUST be smart about using it.
Your Technique is Flawed: He is INCREDIBLY mana hungry. In modes like Arena, not such a big deal since you can run back anytime you want. But in real, non-casual modes? He’s a Basic Attack God, not an Ability Damage God, and all of his powers are important to him. He might be an “Average” difficulty but don’t mistake that for ease of play. If you don’t keep a close eye on your mana pool you can and will get locked down early game. He’s more of a late game guy.
Erlang Shen will likely be put in a solo lane, but I could see the argument for dual lane. While he doesn’t have a ton of utility until level 6, I could definitely see him being a kill lane. Root them down, drop damage buff and the Hunter’s damage buff, and someone could explode quick, fast, and in a hurry. His fourth hit is an AOE giving a lot of free damage against jungle packs. Between that and his passive, he provides a fair amount of free damage to go along with his steroid mashing non-dodgy opponents and unthinking jungle mobs to bits.
But as far as unleashing his potential, he’s very item hungry. Lanes where he can get the most gold are going to be his best bet. Squishy mid laners and solo laners should be wary of Erlang Shen. He’s greedy, powerful and ready to get in and mix it up. Once he’s on you, he can be a monster to peel away from, especially if he’s got an item like Frostbound Hammer to provide a slow. Some people think he’s a greedy pick and doesn’t bring a lot to a team other than damage, but I can’t agree with that. He’s got crowd control, and is automatically a threat. I’d pair him with someone that can save him from death, such as Hel, Aphrodite, Geb, or Khepri – someone that can shield/heal him so he can go forth and cause havoc.
Erlang Shen is all about being smart, taking your picks when you can. I like Sprint/Purification on him for the most part, but as a secondary pick Sanctuary, because invulnerability after your ultimate is a very wise idea. If they aren’t commanding a lot of CC, Sanctuary/Sprint to get in, murder people and get out safe. Not quite an assassin, not quite a guardian, he’s some kind of sickening hybrid that builds off of his basic attacks. Be sagacious and victory is yours!
Passive: Howling Celestial Dog [Buff]:
Each time Erlang Shen lands a basic attack, 15% of his Basic Attack Power comes in the form of an extra hit from his dog. It has a graphic on the screen to show that it hit. It has no cooldown so each time he hits, it’s more damage. It also triggers items that trigger off of Basic Attack [so he’s an on-hit character sort of like you’d see in League].
1: Spot Weakness [Buff]:
Unveiling the power of his Third Eye enlightenment, Erlang Shen can analyze the strengths and weaknesses of his foes. Each hit for 5 seconds does increased damage, and ignores the movement penalty on moving while striking. In addition, each basic hit while it’s active lowers the cooldown of this ability by 1 second. Another reason for some attack speed! Physical Damage goes up per level [25/40/55/70/85 +15% of physical power]. Cost goes up too but not by a huge amount. I wobble between this and his second ability as the most important to level.
2: Pin [Ground Target/Crowd Control]:
Erlang Shen throws his spear into the air, and it damages enemies in a large circle on impact. Enemies in the dead center of that circle are rooted/crippled. The radius is generous , the damage goes up a LOT [85/130/175/220/265 + 45% of your physical power], and the duration starts at 1.1 sec and ends at 1.75 at max. At a 12 second cooldown, this can do a fair amount of damage and be a great way to initiate a 1v1 encounter. Drop it where they’re going to run too, get in and start smashing with 1+Basic Attacks.
3: 72 Transformations [Dash]:
Though it is 72 transformations, you only use two of them: Mink and Turtle. Depending on where you move the ability, forward or closer to you, it will be a Turtle or Mink. Each does something different though the damage on them is solid no matter which choice you make. The cooldown starts incredibly high [18 secs] but goes down on level. The turtle dashes forward, knocks up enemies and has a shield, while Mink damages enemies, stopping on the first God hit before increasing your attack speed. I also tend to use this to escape fights as much as I use it to get in and start slapping people. The turtle can be a fantastic initiate in team fights. Knowing which to use and when is key to playing Erlang Shen successfully.
4: 9 Turns Blessing [Cone, Taunt]:
A gamble that can only be pure arrogance, Erlang Shen taunts all Gods before him, baiting them to attack. The taunt is short [baseline .8 sec], But he does go from 10%-15% Damage Mitigation for the duration. If he should survive, he is healed for 150/240/330/420/510 +20% of his Maximum Health. The key is “if he survives,” which is in the ability description. This is a dangerous move to use without a decent amount of defense, because I tend to grab everyone on the other team. Doing it alone is tantamount to suicide, but it could very well win teamfights or games if it gets your partners out, or distracts them just long enough to set up a Wombo. Use it with Hades for hilarious results. Anything that can do sudden incredible amounts of damage is what you want to be nearby for this. Communicate and win.
As far as leveling skills goes, I go 1, 2, 3 for the first point, then depending on the situation, I max 1 or 2 first. I tend to start leveling 2, then when I can’t anymore, around level 8 I focus on 1. Max your ulti whenever available of course. I don’t start putting points into my 3 until the very end, because it’s not really as pertinent to me. It lowers the cooldown, but I’d rather have the damage and cooldown on the other abilities first. There are two camps right now that I’ve seen on how to build Erlang Shen. Pure damage, focused on attack speed/power, and balancing between Power and Defense. I tend to start with Defense items like Breastplate of Valor personally. Physical Protection, +300 mana, and 20% cooldown? No question!
He’s a fighter so his Phys Protection starts off kind of low. For boots I like Warriors Tabi, and if I’m going with a mixed build, as always, I stress, “build for the situation.” But in most cases I go with Breastplate of Valor, Bulwark of Hope [HEALTH SHIELDS FTW], Celestial Legion Helm, Warriors Tabi, Qin’s Sais, and The Executioner. These are my preferred items in some order or another. For pure damage I like Warrior’s Tabi, Bloodforge, Qin’s Sais, Deathbringer, Wind Demon, and one of the tankier items like Bulwark of Hope. In that build, I start heavy damage and if things get heavy, I swap to the tank items instead.
Erlang Shen is a Sage and a Warrior; a man of gifted intellect and cunning. He pairs this with incredible damage towards the middle/late game, but he can definitely fall behind if he’s not getting kills/assists/last hits. He’s got the potential to roam and gank, or simply stay in lane and farm forever. But he’s not invincible, and isn’t unstoppable. Thorns and things like that are going to really punish him, since almost all of his damage is in his Basic Attack. Without a lot of Pen, tanks are just going to laugh at him. I feel like Ymir is one of his biggest counters, with Geb and Khepri as close runner-ups. Ymir is probably the worst for me because of his new passive, his slow, wall and freeze. Once those are locked in, Erlang Shen’s toast. Anything that can stop him from being mobile or lock him down in CC can cause his end. Plus watch out for Curse – it will ruin your wombo combo in quick order. Timing his ult is really the secret to success. Taunting a runaway hunter can be your end, and games can be won by timing it well with your mage/guardian’s ulties.
As far as strategy goes, personally if I’m playing in a game with lanes, I surprise people with Turtle Form. The second the knock-up animation hits, cancel it, hit 1, and start slapping the crap out of them. If they think about running away or if they have a dash/leap, I try to gauge where they’ll dip to, and land 2 right on top of them. THAT is so very satisfying. Playing Erlang Shen is very satisfying once you get things rolling and get the hang of how he handles. He can hunt people with Mink, knock them up with Turtle, stop them with Pin, and hold everyone down for his team with his Ultimate. Practice will make perfect, and I’m honestly happy with how he handles right now. He’s got so much going on, and while I don’t think he’s pick-or-ban tier, I do think he can really mix it up and cause frustration. Foes who are not careful will wind up in the 9 Springs, courtesy of the Illustrious Sage.