A Comprehensive Newbie Guide to Playing Shifu
Written for patch 0.8. Updated for patch 0.9.
Shifu, the Spear Master, is an expert at spear fighting, and it’s fitting that his name comes from the Mandarin word for master (shīfu). He has 230 HP, an average-sized character model, and a moderate movement speed. As for me, I’m Jake (in-game name: jd014) and I main Shifu. My current win rate is around 70% with him, and my MMR is around 3700. I am not a professional player, but hopefully my guide will still help those trying to learn Shifu.
Spear Slash (M1)
Spear Slash is Shifu’s basic attack. This ability does 9 damage and stacks weapon charges. I’ll go into more detail about weapon charges in the playstyle section, but stacking three weapon charges is essential for effectively using Shifu’s next ability.
Impale is the most important part of Shifu’s kit. Impale deals 9 base damage plus 5 damage for each weapon charge (max 24 damage). This ability goes through multiple targets, dealing 40% less damage to the second target hit and 72% less damage to the third target hit. Impale has a 2 second cooldown, so it can be used in quick succession. Hitting this ability needs to be your primary focus because nothing is worse than missing a free 24-damage shot and wasting those weapon charges.
Fleetfoot is Shifu’s main escape ability. Fleetfoot increases Shifu’s movement speed by 35%, removes all negative effects on him, and makes him Immaterial, which means he can move through champions and projectiles without being touched. Fleetfoot has a relatively long cooldown of 14 seconds, so it’s important to use it at the right time and not waste it. If you think an enemy has their ultimate available, save Fleetfoot. This helps for two reasons: first, a good player will avoid using an ultimate on you if he knows your Fleetfoot is up, and second, you can freely escape if the player is impatient and uses their ultimate anyway.
Kunju allows Shifu to counter direct melee attacks and projectiles. You can’t counter AOE abilities, so it’s important to know when to counter and when to use Fleetfoot instead. Shifu becomes bright blue for 1.2 seconds while his counter is active, and he cannot move. If an enemy triggers Shifu’s counter, then Shifu instantly teleports behind the enemy, becomes immaterial for 1 second, and his next Spear Slash does extra damage. Kunju has a moderate cooldown of 8 seconds, so you are not punished too harshly if you accidently waste this ability. Also, as you climb up the ranks, players will start trying to bait out counters by casting an ability then cancelling it before it completes, so it’s good to develop a habit of using your counter on projectiles that are already in the air.
Javelin is personally my favorite ability on Shifu because it can be used to engage, escape, or to secure the middle orb. Javelin fires a projectile that deals 10 damage and pulls Shifu to whatever the Javelin hits. This ability can be used on enemy champions, walls, and the middle orb. Javelin has two charges and a 10 second cool down. I always like saving one charge of Javelin as an escape, or as a re-engage if an enemy champion uses their last escape ability.
One last tip with Javelin is that it can be used to jump over projectiles and avoid damage-over-time abilities. Shifu becomes invulnerable during the airtime of his Javelin animation, so you can dodge abilities like Croak’s ultimate, Oldur’s Sands of Time, and Lucie’s Deadly Injection.
Tempest Rush (EX-Space)
Tempest Rush is, in my opinion, Shifu’s best EX ability because it allows Shifu to self-sustain while dealing good damage. During Tempest Rush, Shifu becomes Immaterial for 1.7 seconds, has increased movement speed by 50%, and Spear Slashes heal Shifu for 14 health per hit. The only downside is that it reduces Shifu’s damage output by 50% while active. If you are ever getting out traded or if you don’t have a support champion on your team, this ability should be used often to out-sustain the enemy team.
Harpoon is the ability I use least on Shifu. It is hard to use effectively, and honestly I would rather use my energy on Tendon Swing, Tempest Rush, or Whirlwind. This ability is similar to the Javelin ability, but instead deals 14 damage and pulls the target towards Shifu. It can also be used on walls to pull Shifu towards the wall. Harpoon costs 25 energy to cast, which is significant. The only time I use this ability is to pull the middle orb towards myself to secure it.
Tendon Swing (R)
Tendon Swing is a great ability for singling out one target. Shifu swings his spear in a cone that deals 12 damage and Incapacitates enemies for 2.5 seconds. Tendon Swing has a long cooldown of 15 seconds and costs 25 energy to use, so make sure you are within range of the target when you use it. Now this ability, like Javelin, is very versatile because it can be used offensively and defensively. Incapacitating one champion allows a 2v1 or 3v2 situation in your favor for almost 3 seconds. Similarly, this ability can be used as an escape when you’re trapped and everything else is on cooldown. Also, using Incapacitate can allow for a free and easy middle orb, which will replenish the energy used for the ability and give you some extra health.
Shifu can spin-to-win with his Whirlwind ability. It gives Shifu a shield that absorbs 30 damage, increases movement speed by 20%, and deals AOE damage for 3 seconds up to a total of 112 damage. The best way to use Whirlwind effectively is to wait for a champion to use all their escapes, then Javelin to them and cast Whirlwind. Also, comboing this ability with other champions can cause some massive damage very fast. For example, Ashka’s Infernal Scorch and Shifu’s Whirlwind on the same target will easily deal over 100 damage in 2 seconds.
- Swift Feet: Increases the duration of Fleetfoot to 1.8s from 1.4s and reduces the cooldown by 2s.
- Ceremonial Spear: Impale heals you for 4 health plus 2 health for each weapon charge.
- Dirty Tricks: Javelin inflicts a 1.2s Root.
Ceremonial Spear is my go-to pick for Round 1 because it helps with self-sustain. It is the safest choice. Dirty Tricks is also a good starting battlerite against champions with several escapes or movement-enhancing abilities. Swift Feet is the weakest of the three, but can be used if you know you are going to be heavily focused.
- Poised to Strike: You gain 3 weapon charges when Kunju is triggered.
- Spear Slinger: Hitting an enemy or a wall with Javelin reduces its cooldown by 2s.
- Skewer: Impale inflicts a 1s Fading Snare.
I prefer to go for Poised to Strike in this round. This battlerite is especially good for players with fast reaction times and can force enemies to trigger counters consistently. My second choice is Skewer for locking down a champion and allowing Shifu to chase more easily. I would not recommend getting Spear Slinger because, while it can help in very rare circumstances, the other two battlerites are much better in almost every scenario.
- The Spear Is the Way: Spear Slash attacks during Fleetfoot deal 6 bonus damage.
- Mantra: Kunju heals self and nearby allies for 14 health when activated.
- Whirling Blade: Tendon Swing grants 25% energy when hitting at least one target.
Mantra is my favorite for several reasons. First, not only is 14 health massive, it heals your allies in addition to healing you. Another great aspect of Mantra is that it kicks in when you cast the counter — you get the healing even if nobody triggers it. Whirling Blade is another great choice that essentially makes Tendon Swing cost 0 energy. Use it if you are trying to focus on one target. The Spear Is the Way can be picked if you are an ultra-aggressive player, but be careful because Shifu will melt very fast if he runs out of cooldowns.
- Inspiration: Increases your maximum energy by 25% and energy gained from abilities is increased by 10%.
- Ferocity: Increases your maximum weapon charges by 1.
- Recuperate: Increases healing received by 15%.
Inspiration is a battlerite common among many champions, and it is very useful so it is my usual fourth round pick. Being able to use more EX abilities and reach your ultimate faster gives a gigantic advantage to your team. Recuperate can also be a good pick if you are playing with a support champion. Ferocity is a pick for aggressive players that are looking to finish the game this round, but I would not recommend this battlerite unless you are very confident that you’ll win easily.
- Spear Dance: Whirlwind movement speed bonus is increased to 40% from 20%.
- Bloodthirst: Whirlwind heals you for 25% of damage done.
Bloodthirst is a great final battlerite because it allows Shifu to recover up to 28 health while using his ultimate. Spear Dance is a situational pick that can be good against certain champions like Taya that have haste abilities and are difficult to catch.
- Spear Slash a target 3 times before using Impale to effectively use your weapon charges and maximize your combo damage.
- Do not immediately Impale after an enemy triggers your Kunju unless they do not have any escapes available. Most players will instinctively use an escape ability after hitting a counter to avoid damage.
- Attack Petrified targets to build weapon charges. A person that’s Petrified will have a shield that absorbs 20 damage, and it will not be broken unless you deal 20 or more damage to them. Shifu can Spear Slash twice to get 2 free weapon charges and some free energy while the target remains Petrified.
- Try to save your ultimate for when an enemy champion has no escapes available. Being able to deal max damage with your ultimate almost ensures the round in your favor.
- Don’t fall for cancelled abilities. Almost every good player will try to bait out counters by casting an ability then cancelling it right before it finishes. The most common ones are Jade’s Snipe, Rook’s Rush, and Taya’s X-Strike.
- Try to focus on one target, but do not tunnel. Basically have a plan to go for the easiest champion that Shifu can handle, but also adapt to the situation and change focus when necessary.
- Always check enemy battlerites every round because it will change your playstyle for that round. It will help you gauge how to use your abilities effectively to minimize the effects of their battlerites.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to control the middle orb. Taking the middle orb grants 25 energy, 10 real health, and 10 recovery health to your whole team (or 50 energy, 25 real health, and 25 recovery health if you’re the only one alive). Shifu can easily control the middle orb by using his basic combo of three Spear Slashes into an Impale. This combo deals 51 damage, and the middle orb only has 50 health, so you can take it quickly and easily. As mentioned before, Harpoon can also be used to bring the orb towards you and away from the enemy team. Don’t forget about the small health and energy globes because they add up quickly and can swing the momentum of a round.
There are three main ways to engage at the start of the round with Shifu. The most common way is by using Javelin to get close to your intended target. The second way is by using your mount to rush an enemy champion. This second option requires you to save your boost until you attempt to engage and some good reactions to avoid incoming attacks that will snare you. The third option is trying to bait a champion to hit your counter. If an enemy champion is constantly poking you, stand out in the open then activate your counter to intercept their poke, and you will teleport behind them once its triggered.
After engaging, you need to use Fleetfoot to dodge Stuns, Panics, and Silences. Keep one charge of Javelin ready to catch champions after they use escape abilities. If you use your abilities correctly, you will get your golden time period — this is the period of time where the champion you’re attacking has run out of defensive cooldowns and has no choice but to endure the wrath of Shifu. You will be able to get off at least two combos (3x Spear Slashes and an Impale) and deal massive damage.
The best defensive tip I can give about Shifu has to do with timing and cooldowns. If you miss a Javelin, mess up a counter, or waste Fleetfoot, DO NOT ENGAGE. I cannot emphasize this point enough. The biggest way to throw away a round is overcommitting to a fight when you do not have your full utility.
Another defensive tip has to do with orb control. Wait until the middle orb is about 5 seconds away from spawning, then force an engage with the enemy team. Try to push them back out of mid by putting pressure on one champion, then immediately fall back with Fleetfoot to get the orb once it spawns. If you do this technique successfully, you can ensure the first orb almost every round. Finally, Tendon Swing, Javelin, and even Whirlwind can be used to escape or disengage if Fleetfoot is on cooldown.
- Jumong — Jumong has a decent amount of mobility, but struggles against Shifu. One reason is that it’s difficult for Jumong to avoid hitting Shifu’s counter. Also Shifu can go Immaterial and make Jumong’s Bear Trap useless — run over it while Immaterial and it will still set off, but won’t affect you. Jumong will use his Prowl offensively to Incapacitate you, so counter immediately after his Prowl runs out because that’s when he’s most likely to attack you.
- Lucie — Lucie is similar to Varesh because she only has a single escape, and it costs 25 energy to use. However, Lucie also has a Panic ability that will cause you to run away from her if she hits it. When you see Lucie charging up an attack with a purple projectile, use Kunju to counter the attack. Another part of Lucie’s kit is Clarity Potion that causes a dispel and knockback on all nearby enemies, so try to save abilities until after she uses Clarity Potion.
- Rook — The best way to sum up how to beat Rook is that you have to play around all of his abilities except Crushing Blow. Crushing Blow allows Rook to deal 16 damage in an area, stun for 0.7s (assuming they choose Squash as the first round battlerite), and inflict Armor Break that increases damage taken by 20%. However, the rest of Rook’s kit is highly predictable and easy to avoid. Use Fleetfoot to dddge Rook’s Rush and Boulder Toss. Another very important part of beating Rook is staying away from walls. Rook can use his Smack ability to Stun you into a wall and Incapacitate you for 3 seconds. Lastly, try not to trigger Rook’s counter — although it is more forgiving than other counters in the game, it’s still not ideal to hit it.
- Sirius — Following the theme of low mobility, Sirius fits in with the rest of the champions Shifu does well against. Sirius has Celestial Split that teleports him and deals damage on location, but that’s about all he has for reliable mobility. The key to beating him is the same as the key to beating Varesh: don’t hit his counter. Hitting his counter allows him to teleport away, so it is a huge setback every time it happens. One last tip is to save Fleetfoot to avoid all damage from his ultimate ability, Astral Beam.
- Taya — Taya’s main weakness against Shifu is that her projectiles are easy to predict, allowing Shifu to counter her consistently. If you are hit with Wind Bomb or see Taya preparing to throw X-Strike, then be prepared to counter. Make sure to wait until Taya releases her projectiles before you counter, so you don’t waste Kunju on a cancelled ability. Another important note is that Taya’s boomerangs do not trigger your counter on the way back to her. Finally, Taya suffers from limited mobility besides her ultimate, so if you can get close to her and use Fleetfoot to avoid her Wind Strike then you can out-trade her substantially.
- Varesh — Varesh only has one escape, and it costs 25 energy, so Shifu can take advantage of Varesh’s immobility. Use your Javelin to close the gap on Varesh then do not attack for a second because Varesh will typically use his counter immediately, especially at lower grades. Varesh’s only other defensive ability is Inhibitor’s Guard, which shields him for 28 damage. Save your Impale until after the shield runs out to maximize damage dealt. Finally, use your Fleetfoot to avoid Varesh’s Shatter ability and you should be able to pile on damage fast.
- Bakko — Bakko is a champion I despise, but he isn’t a terrible matchup for Shifu. Bakko is the easiest champion in the game to use, and he can deal tons of damage all while having 250 health. Bakko will throw his Blood Axes at the start of the round to try to get early damage on you. He will also use his Blood Axe whenever he reaches 3 weapon charges. These are perfect opportunities to use your counter. I usually use Fleetfoot to avoid his Valiant Leap because it’s very difficult to avoid Heroic Charge once he stomps you. Also Shifu’s Javelin interrupts Bakko’s shield, but does not pull Shifu to Bakko.
- Croak — Croak can be difficult to catch, but Shifu can out-trade him if Croak ever tries to get into fight. Croak’s kit is built around going in, dealing quick damage, and then escaping until cooldowns are back again. Camouflage is a huge part of Croak’s combo, so avoiding this ability is key to success. After seeing Croak go invisible, wait a second (or more depending on how far away he is) then counter. If he is still invisible after your counter ends, immediately use Fleetfoot to become Immaterial and avoid the Stun. One final point is to avoid any damage from Croak’s ultimate by using Fleetfoot (when affected by Croak’s ultimate, there is a timer above your head that shows when the Venom will explode, so make sure to time it just right).
- Oldur — Oldur is the highest damage-dealing support in the game. The biggest threat about him is that he can deal damage over time AND burst you. As with any champion, it’s very important to check which battlerites he takes. Specifically with Oldur, the Time Walker battlerite resets his Shifting Sands ability, which allows him to teleport if you hit his shield. Basically this gives Oldur the ability to teleport twice, which makes it difficult to stick to him. So the number one rule against Oldur is don’t hit his shield. Also Oldurs tend to spam their auto attacks too much because it deals a large amount of damage. This allows for easy counters most of the time.
- Pearl — Pearl is highly effective against ranged champions because of her bubble, but can also do well against melee champions when played correctly. Her bubble can be used to negate your ultimate and her Silence can punish you if you overextend. While she’s good in those aspects, she has almost no mobility and her ultimate is one of the easiest to avoid with Fleetfoot. My go-to move against Pearl is to Incapacitate her as much as possible and focus on the other enemy champion. Without the supporting abilities and healing of Pearl, the other champion has little to no protection.
- Poloma — Poloma can be either extremely easy to take out or just a complete nuisance. This matchup is all about reading your opponent and predicting their abilities. I like to engage Poloma by rushing her with my mount then immediately entering Fleetfoot after a Spear Slash. I do this to avoid her Panic ability and I try to save both Javelins for her Other Side and her Spirit Guide that teleports her. Another good way to beat Poloma is to counter her Ghost Wolf ability. You’ll know it’s coming when Poloma stops spamming her auto attack and starts casting, so try to counter when you see the Ghost Wolf come out.
- Ruh Kaan — Ruh Kaan is currently not very strong compared to other champions, but that doesn’t mean he should be underestimated. Specifically, Ruh Kaan has two abilities you need to look out for: Shadowbolt and Reaping Scythe. Shadowbolt has a long casting time so it’s easy to predict and counter. Saving Fleetfoot for Reaping Scythe is the best decision because a good Ruh Kaan will spam this ability and not use their ultimate often.
- Ashka — Shifu suffers against Ashka’s mobility and high damage output. Ashka can kite Shifu easily while forcing Shifu to blow cooldowns to avoid damage. Ashka has two escape abilities, Searing Flight and Molten Fist, making it hard for you to stick. Ashka also has the ability to Petrify nearby enemies with Molten Chains, which can negate you when you get within Spear Slash range. The point is you won’t get close to Ashka if he is using his abilities effectively. Instead, force him to use his cooldowns supportively by focusing his teammate. Once he gets close or blows several cooldowns, Incapacitate his teammate then immediately switch over to Ashka.
- Freya — Hate being Incapacitated? I do too, and that’s why Freya is so aggravating to play against. Freyas typically start with Twin Hammers as their first battlerite, which means there are two opportunities for a 2-second Incapacitate. Freya’s Electric Shield makes it difficult to put damage on her because her counter is so unpredictable. To beat Freya you need to stay away from walls because that’s how she’s able to Incapacitate you. Be cautious when Impaling her because a good Freya will use her counter to avoid it. If you do trigger her counter, just fall back, Incapacitate her, or switch focus to another target because she can stack shields easily if you keep going.
- Iva — Iva is one of the least played champions in Battlerite, but that doesn’t mean she’s weaker than other champions. A good Iva will systematically tear apart Shifu. Iva’s biggest strength against Shifu is her Flamethrower ability that doesn’t trigger counters, and deals 21 bonus damage if you are affected by Oil. Also she has a Stun, a shield with a speed boost, and a dash ability that can be recast with the right battlerite. She’s dangerous because she can deal massive damage while kiting close range. This is a nightmare for Shifu. The best way to play around Iva is to counter her X-67 Rocket or her Machine Gun. Most importantly, save your Fleetfoot for her Flamethrower unless you’re okay with taking 70+ damage in under 3 seconds.
- Jade — If you thought Ashka was hard to catch, good luck with Jade. She has Blast Vault, Stealth, Disabling Shot which can Snare, Snap Shot that can Root, and Junk Shot that can knock you way back. The silver lining is that you can counter her ultimate and make it a complete waste of energy. Also it is important to know you can still deal damage to Jade while she’s in Stealth, and damage numbers will appear while you hit her, so it will show her location. The last piece of advice for Jade is that she will fake her Snipe ability often, so wait for her to actually shoot the projectile, then use Kunju to counter.
- Ashka/Shifu — Great double DPS composition that allows for quick bursts. Focus on Incapacitating both targets once Ashka has his ultimate for an easy setup. Try to focus the same target because this composition does not have much sustain, though it does have great middle orb control with Shifu’s Impale and Ashka’s Firewall.
- Sirius/Shifu — One of the best 2s teams currently in the meta. Sirius is able to put out some serious damage as a support, and Shifu and Sirius can burst a champion down to half health with both their combos combined. When playing this combo, focus on singling out one target and channeling ultimates together for maximized damage.
- Lucie/Shifu — Lucie is a great support who works well with almost every champion. Lucie can heal Shifu while he dives a target. Barrier helps absorb damage for Shifu when he’s being focused. The most important part of this team is that Shifu needs to help Lucie and peel for her if she’s being focused.
- Oldur/Shifu — Oldur is the best support for Shifu. Oldur’s ultimate combined with Shifu’s ultimate is phenomenal because it transports Shifu and allows him to get free damage for 2 seconds while enemies are stunned. Oldur can also use Quicksand to Root enemies right after his ultimate’s stun wears off. This composition also has amazing orb control because Shifu can easily take the orb while Oldur uses Chronoflux to block incoming projectiles.
- Jumong/Shifu — Another good double DPS comp that can combo well. If Jumong can catch someone in Bear Trap or Incapacitate them, then Shifu can get a free Impale or Spear Slashes. Good composition for going in to deal burst damage, then both falling back while Immaterial.
- Croak/Shifu — The double Incapacitate combination of Croak and Shifu is both annoying and useful. Croak’s Deceit used correctly with Shifu’s Tendon Swing allows for a 5.5-second Incapacitate. This is an insanely long time for a champion to be out of the fight. Shifu and Croak both have good mobility, so they can both chase down the other target and burst them fast.
- Ashka/Jade/Shifu — Ashka and Jade can line up abilities after Shifu Incapacitates enemies. Arguably the highest possible damage composition in the game, though lacking in support if one of you makes a grave mistake. Good communication with this composition is necessary for success.
- Croak/Jade/Shifu — The goal of this trio is to set up for Jade’s Snipe and Ultimate. Jade should start with Ambush, which resets her Snipe cooldown when she uses Stealth. This battlerite allows Croak and Shifu to switch off Incapacitating an enemy and letting Jade get two free snipes on one target.
- Oldur/Freya/Shifu — This team shows the power of AOE ultimates. A good time travel by Oldur followed by Freya’s Lighting Strike and Shifu’s Whirlwind can end a round instantly.
- Lucie/Ashka/Shifu — Great burst damage combined with the sustain and support abilities of Lucie allows for an amazing team composition. Shifu and Ashka can play aggressively while Lucie plays safe and uses her cooldowns to support Ashka and Shifu. This was even the original master comp back in Bloodline Champions!
Overall Shifu is one of the strongest melee champions in the roster, and he can hold his own against almost any champion in the game. This guide covered every aspect of Shifu I could think of, so hopefully it helped you in some way. I would like to thank everyone that reads and supports this guide. Also a big shout out to Zanetski for allowing me to publish this on Battlecrank. Have fun climbing up the ladder with Shifu!