Shadow Shaman is a versatile semi-support hero with a claim to be the best disabler in the game. He has a massive bag of tricks up his sleeve, and will be a constant thorn in the side of the opposition.
Rhasta is a great pusher, ganker and team fighter. He also makes a very effective counter to mobile heroes.
+ Very versatile
+ Great selection of different spells
+ Low cooldown times
+ Massive disabling ability
+ Great pusher
+ Can initiate with the right items
- Somewhat squishy
- Can burn through mana very quickly
- Slow projectile speed
- Lacks damage in late game
- Slow movement speed
There's two roles that Rhasta can do for the team - either as a ganking/pushing mid, or a support hero in either side lane. As a mid, Rhasta is fairly average until he gets his Ultimate, but can easily take out his opponent at that point. He then needs to be very aggressive, looking for ganks and pushing opportunities in other lanes.
As a support hero, Rhasta's mix of disables and harassment is very effective with a ganking or DPS partner, and adequate for babysitting. His slow speed means that you need to be careful with your positioning though.
Role also plays a big part in item decisions, we'll cover this later.
Rhasta's nuking skill is a great spell for farming, harassment and team fights. As you level it up, the damage and number of targets hit increases. The damage is applied equally to all targets hit.
The main point about using Ether Shock is that it will hit the first target, then branch out to any nearby targets in a wide cone behind it - so target it wisely depending on the level and who you actually want to hit.
Try to get Ether Shock to level 2 before making much use of it, as it massively increases its potential damage for a very minor mana increase.
One of the few heroes to start with a Hex ability, Rhasta can turn an enemy hero into a harmless chicken for several seconds. Not only is this hilarious, but it reduces their movement speed, armour and stops them attacking or using abilities.
Hex is relatively expensive, mana-wise, and Shackles is a better disable if you want to gank. However, Hex doesn't require channelling - so is your best spell for escaping.
Whether to skill Hex or Shackles first is discussed further into the guide.
When you're playing against him, Shackles is easily the most annoying spell in Rhasta's armoury. It's a long, channelled disable that also inflicts a small amount of damage. The channelling means that you cannot cast any other spells, move or attack while you use Shackles, but neither can the enemy hero.
This makes it an excellent ganking spell, provided you have support, or can use your Mass Serpent Wards to supply the damage instead.
Later on especially, get used to the timings on both Hex and Shackles so that you can chain stun a single target for the maximum possible time (8.25 seconds).
Mass Serpent Wards summons a block of fiery wards that will attack any nearby enemies. They are completely immune to magic, although they can be damaged by normal attacks. The wards have a long duration, and also a fairly long cooldown time of nearly 2 minutes.
Wards aren't very smart, and will auto-attack creeps rather than heroes and towers - select and manually target them. Also be aware they provide gold to enemy heroes who destroy them.
Although their damage is improved by Aghanim's Scepter, wards are at their most effective in the early-mid game when they can swiftly focus down towers and enemy heroes alike. Ideally, as soon as you reach level 6 you should be trying to push as often as they recharge. Ensure you have plenty of creeps for a push, as wards will be swiftly destroyed by towers if there are no other targets.
Wards can also be used as your 3rd disable - it's a little bit tricky, but you can trap enemy heroes inside them with careful or creative targeting. For example, you could easily trap a stunned or stationary opponent - or even on an allied Vengeful Spirit who then swaps an enemy in!
Early game this is likely to be lethal, especially if you follow up with Shackles. Later in the game this is still damaging and annoying for an opponent, but really you should save it for team fights and base pushes.
Rhasta is extremely versatile when it comes to items, and it's impossible to specify items you should always pick. Your choices depend on your role, farm, and the needs of your team. I'm not going to tell you what to buy, just take you through some of the most common items and when they make sense.
Start out by buying wards or a courier, unless you're playing as a mid. You may want to a consider a Bottle, but Rhasta lacks the mobility to compete against proper rune ***** heroes.
Generally you need at least one stats item early game ( Null Talisman, Bracer or Magic Wand) to help you with last hitting/denying (as appropriate) and to top up your relatively poor health pool.
Next up, you'll almost always want Arcane Boots for the extra mana and regeneration, plus offering utility to team mates.
If you took the mid role, you're likely to have more gold, and other support heroes on the team who can pick up the utility items. You should concentrate on increasing your health/mana pool, and looking at items like Black King Bar and Blink Dagger to allow you to gank and initiate.
As a support hero, it's possible that you're also responsible for warding and so will have a lot less gold to spend on yourself. You should accept this role and concentrate on intelligence/mana, and good utility items as you will not have the health to initiate properly anyway.
Eul's Scepter of Divinity Worth a mention at the top of the list, Euls is a relatively cheap item that helps Shaman in a number of ways. It provides good mana regen, as well as a lot of movement speed. Cyclone deserves a special mention, as it makes it incredibly easy to ward trap somebody- just send them up in the air, and place the wards where they will land.
Aghanim's Scepter A good choice of Rhasta regardless of role, adding much needed stats and pool points. It offers a good increase to the damage output of Serpent Wards, regardless of their level.
Black King Bar Only for a rich Rhasta, this items makes you immune to most abilities, pretty much guaranteeing you will get all of your abilities off in a team fight. Great item if you are initiating.
Blink Dagger Again, only if you have a fair bit of gold and most of the items you need already. Blink gives you a great initiation/ganking option, as well as an escape.
Bloodstone Such a great item on Rhasta, it adds a ton of health, mana and regeneration, meaning you can basically fire off your abilities as much as you want. It also allows you to respawn more quickly, and adds health regeneration for allies in the area where you died.
Scythe of Vyse A farmed up Rhasta is a good sheepstick carrier, adding yet another hex to his arsenal, as well as greatly increased intelligence.
Refresher Orb Another expensive item, it allows you use serpent wards more often; or even twice in a single fight. Very nice, but this is a true luxury item for when you already have an Aghanim's and a Bloodstone.
Mekansm A good Mek carrier, Rhasta benefits from the increased armour and health generation. Just be careful to leave a little mana to use this! Get this if nobody else on the team has.
Pipe of Insight Not really a natural Pipe carrier due to the cost and his low health pool, Rhasta still gains a lot from the magic resistance and should be in a good position to use it in team fights.
Force Staff A very useful item on Rhasta, giving him a form of short range initiation, escape and way of manipulating the positioning in team fights. Excellent with a Bloodseeker on your team, and when heroes such as Nature's Prophet and Enigma are on the opposition. Yes, you can force allies out of a Black Hole!
Drum of Endurance Useful combination of stats, movement and attack speed aura for the team. This allows you to get a bracer early to boost your survivability. Get if it nobody else on the team does.
Urn of Shadows This is more of a gankers tool, and you should avoid it if someone else on your team already has one. You will be frequently involved in ganks and team fights so should get plenty of charges. The strength increase and mana regen boost are nice too.
Veil of Discord Even with his Ether Shock, Rhasta doesn't really have enough nuking power to make this worthwhile if it's just for him - but could be well worth it if others on your team do. The stats and armour are nice too.
Rhasta is a great pick against mobile heroes such as Anti-Mage, Queen of Pain and Storm Spirit. They rely on their movement abilities to survive, and are easy prey if locked down.
As a semi-support, Rhasta works best when laning with a DPS or burst damage hero - such as Huskar, Ursa, Tiny or Lina. He also works very well as part of a push strat lineup.
Rhasta suffers a lot against heroes with silencing abilities such as Bloodseeker, Drow Ranger or Doom Bringer. You really have very little to offer without your spells.
Strong gankers such as Pudge and Tiny can cause you problems if they catch you out. Night Stalker deserves a special mention as his combination of speed, silence and damage can make your life a misery.
Rhasta is just too slow to make a good long lane solo.
In teamfights you should look to fire off your abilities as quickly as possible, as the enemy team will attempt to focus you down. You have to consider the situation - it might be vital that you just disable a single enemy hero for as long as possible before they can fire off a big power or smack your allies about. Normally though, you try to make full use of your powers - like so:
Start off by dropping your wards- they are your most powerful spell, and will continue fighting even if you go down. Try to trap an enemy hero inside if possible, but at least aim for the "centre of gravity" of the fight so they continue to inflict damage.
Next, fire off a hex at the most dangerous enemy hero- sometimes this will be their carry, but heroes with big team fight abilities such as Tidehunter, Enigma and Sand King should also be considered. As are nukers like Lina and Lion.
Next, hit as many heroes as possible with your Ether Shock - simply aim for the closest one in a group. If you have any active ability items, such as a Sheepstick or Eul's now is the time to use them.
Finally (well, hopefully very soon after!), find a target for your shackles and lock them down. This could be the person you already hex'd, or it might be somebody else depending on how the fight is shaping up. Ether Shock should nearly be available again by the time your Shackle ends, and can be useful for finishing off fleeing survivors.
Having two disables can let you pull off all sorts of creative manoeuvres - you can make some stunning rescues, ganks, and turn around all sorts of situations that seem to be going bad. Shackling tower divers never gets old :).
Like your item choices, you should be flexible on your builds for Shadow Shaman - all of his skills are useful, it's just a question of which you need to level up most urgently.
Ether Shock - you want at least 2 levels in this before using it for harassment, although 1 level can be enough to finish off a fleeing hero. It's also useful if you want to be able push your lane forward quickly.
Hex - this is primarily a defensive skill in the early stages of the game - it doesn't inflict damage or disable for as long or as completely as Shackles. But it lets you continue moving and casting, getting you or an ally out of trouble.
Shackles - although you can sometimes use this to protect an ally, often it will leave you in a bad position instead. However, it's an extremely useful ganking tool and makes it easy to setup kills for other players. It also combines better with Wards as the enemy hero can't move out of range.
Mass Serpent Ward - take this as often as it's available in almost all situations. Occasionally the mana cost at level 3 can be a problem if you've been having a bad game and struggled to get the items you need.
Personally, I usually prefer to level Ether Shock and Shackles early game, with the occasional point in Hex to give the option of an extra disable or non-channelled disable. Every game is different though, and you need to adjust accordingly.