This is a guide intended for a pusher Shadow Shaman. It is a very strong build in public matches, largely for the reason that it takes a significant mid-game advantage or stellar teamwork to overcome. Shadow Shaman can quickly seize towers to give his team a tower and gold advantage, and it makes teamfighing and pushing very costly for the enemy team. Prerequisites to this guide include strong map-awareness. As of the time this guide was last updated the patch was 6.84c.
Shadow Shaman - or Rhasta, as older players or wannabes will call him - is a very versatile hero. He fills the roles of pusher, disabler, nuker and support. Despite his frailties, he is capable of more than a few cheap con tricks. He benefits from Ether Shock, a rapidly scaling damage nuke, Hex, a Scythe of Vyse in the form of a spell that both slows and disables, Shackles, a channeled stun with a good duration and Mass Serpent Ward, a cluster of ten damage-dealing entities that are difficult for squishy heroes to counter. As Shadow Shaman can nuke, push and disable in multiple ways without any items, he is very strong in lane-support and in teamfights, assuming that his team can protect him. This qualification signifies the next section of this guide, the pros and cons of Shadow Shaman.
This section briefly describes heroes that a Shadow Shaman benefits from having on his team, as well as heroes against whom he is poor at fighting against.
Ursa is an ideal lane-partner for Shadow Shaman. Your slowing Hex and disabling Shackles give Ursa enough time to land several stacks of Fury Swipes on an unfortunate victim. Additionally, Ursa is scary enough that the enemy's lane partner will have a very good chance of being helpless against your gank.
Undying serves the same role as Ursa, as far as you are concerned. His Tombstone can tear an enemy hero to bits, especially if you use your spells to keep them under the tombstone for as long as possible. However, Undying and Ursa both need to cooperate with you for ganks to be effective. There is nothing more dangerous for you than your lane partner wandering off while you're channeling Shackles, and this is decently likely to happen. This is the reason why heroes like Shadow Shaman, Crystal Maiden and Witch Doctor are not great supports for public games, because they require a lot of teamwork to make good use of them. If you're looking for a good support in low-MMR matchmade games, Omniknight, Shadow Demon and Pugna may be better for you.
That said, these are heroes that work well with your disables. The true purpose of this guide is to emphasize Mass Serpent Wards, meaning that while you should use your disables when appropriate (more on this to come), it's not really why you're there.
Remember one of the issues with Shadow Shaman, that he needs momentum in a lane to seize towers? These heroes solve that problem. Tinker can cycle March of the Machines and Rearm to push lanes out, giving you the chance to reach an undefended tower and Mass Serpent Wards it. Natures Prophet can cycle Teleportation as well, his split-push serving the same role as Tinker. Drow Ranger, meanwhile, has Precision Aura to offer. This spell sees little use in low-MMR games, and Drow Ranger herself is a very dubious hero due to her "glass-cannon" nature, but the bonus that she gives ranged creeps when activating Precision Aura pushes lanes, meaning that you have more oppurtunities to strike.
You probably are noticing a pattern here. Heroes with strong pushing abilities mean that you are going to be on the defensive commonly, reducing your oppurtunities to reach an enemy tower and capture it. Naga Siren and Lone Druid may also be strong allies or fearsome enemies if they acquire a Radiance, as Spirit Bear can push out a lane while Lone Druid does his duties and Mirror Image gives Naga Siren cheap illusions to serve the same purpose.
There are other heroes that have strong defensive abilities, meaning that you may have trouble warding a tower even if you do reach it. Luna and Sniper can pick off your wards easily. Slark, Riki and Bounty Hunter can all rely on invisibility to deceive you into thinking that a tower is unprotected when it isn't. Then there are highly mobile heroes like Bloodseeker, Storm Spirit, Antimage and Queen of Pain that can ruin your day the moment you're spotted on the minimap. Finally, some heroes are poor pushers but can offer very strong pushback near their own towers. These heroes include Ogre Magi and Techies, heroes that, at a high cost, can wipe out the creep wave that you need to tank hits from the tower.
There are really a lot of heroes that can stop Shadow Shaman, but only the strong pushers are a good reason to completely abandon this strategy. You may fail here and there, but a tower is worth far more than a death. If you are dying to these heroes numerous times then you do run the risk of feeding them, but the minimap is there to help you keep track of where enemies are. Map awareness, knowing when to strike and when not to is the key.
Consider the enemy's abilities and consider the worst-case scenario of you trying to take a tower. If the enemies are visible on the map, see where they are and check their inventories for Town Portal Map or Boots of Travel. That is more valuable advice than "don't try this strategy if the enemy team has a Sniper or a Slark, since that is rarely the case.
This is an overview of Shadow Shaman's abilities (under construction)
Ether Shock is a nuke that scales rapidly in damage and units hit. It, like all of your spells, has a high mana cost. It can be used occasionally to harass the enemy team if you have mana to spare but its high number of targets, as well as the splash damage that it offers when units are in close proximity to one-another, makes it a strong wave-destroying spell. If you are seizing a tower but an enemy creep wave is approaching your own, Ether Shock rapidly reducing the time that it will take for the wave to wipe, meaning that they will no longer damage your own creeps or distract them from hitting the tower.
* Do not level this up for level 1. You should never be casting this spell when it has only one level into it, unless multiple allies are chasing down a hero and using it can mean the difference between a successful kill and otherwise.
* Strike when many creeps - particularly ranged - are clumped together. This increases the damage and may even secure easy last hits, as without this level 4 Ether Shock will just barely be short of killing a full-health ranged creep.
* When feasible, cast this before using Shackes. It has a short cast animation and its short cooldown means that you can use it again after cycling through your other spells.
* Do not use this spell to push in the laning phase when it will make farming more difficult for your carry and, even more importantly, do not use this spell to steal farm from your carries. The items listed in this guide are expensive, but they are luxury. Take farm when you can but not if it denies farm for the rest of your team. You are not a carry and you do not depend on gold.
Hex and Shackles are more easily explained in unison. The differences between Hex and Shackles, though both disables, should strongly inform how you use them and how you decide between them. Both have a starting mana cost of 110, but Shackes scales so that it requires an additional 20 mana for each level, for an ultimate cost of 170 mana at level 4, while Hex scales so that it requires an additional 30 mana for each level, for an ultimate cost of 200 mana.
Hex has a short cast animation and can be used and then forgotten. It requires no personal commitment can be used to disable hard-to-hit heroes like Storm Spirit and Queen of Pain. Because it disables abilities, escape heroes are much more easily managed with this spell. Additionally, because it has a cast point, it ought to be used first when using both spells on the same hero. Using Shackles on a hexed hero bears no risk, assuming you do it so that the shackles take effect right before Hex ends. The reverse, using Shackles into Hex leaves a small window of time in which heroes can escape or use a helpful item.
A different reason why Hex should often be cast before shackles in teamfights is that it protects you. Shadow Shaman is not considered a helpful hero in low-level pubs because he requires cooperation to be effective, and if you shackle the enemy's carry, you can bet that the enemy team will try to disable and, since you are squishy, kill you. Casting Hex on a different enemy hero partially protects you from them when you Shackle, and it can make a serious difference.
There are some times, however, when Shackles should be used without Hex. If you are being chased by a fast hero like Slark, Shackles merely postpone your demise. You may be stopping their movement, but you aren't gaining any distance between them. Hex can slow an enemy hero just enough for you to escape them, and should be reserved when not in a teamfight. Additionally, you may find situations in which you have only enough mana to cast one. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each. Shackles has a greater duration, but Hex is better for countering heroes that may attack you if your Shackles do not kill them. Hex no longer disables passives, so you cannot depend on it to break passive abilities
Mass Serpent Wards is the spell that makes Shadow Shaman more than a mere fifth-slot support hero. They can take towers, ward (sorry) enemies off from a push, and be used for your life-saving 1v1 combo, which will be explained after this tower-taking guide.
Map awareness is the key to taking towers with Shadow Shaman. It is a costly strategy, as the cooldown of Mass Serpent Wards is nothing to scoff at. Using this skill offensively nearly entirely diminishes your ability to defend, and it isn't difficult for the enemy team to counter your play. The map below is an estimate of when creeps reach their respective enemy towers, assuming that the tower is so far pushed that the creeps reach it with no resistence. While this timer is a good reference for timing your teleportations with Boots of Travel. Constantly checking the minimap for the position and momentum of your creep waves will help assure that you will be prepared when your creeps reach the enemy tower but, as explained previously, this is not enough. When enemies are on the minimap, check their items. Look for invisibility items like Shadow Blade and Smoke of Deceit, movement items like Town Portal Scroll and Boots of Travel and, to a lesser extent, ganking items like Orchid of Malevolence and Blink Dagger. If enemies such as Storm Spirit and Riki are completely missing from the minimap and have not been seen recently, reconsider your play. Even if they react quickly, you may be able to deal decent damage to the tower, but destroying one at full health requires a lack of committment from enemy heroes that can deal with wards. Dark Seer and Crystal Maiden cannot kill your wards alone, and even counterpushing the wave is dangerous for them, but perhaps the majority of heroes in the game can. If the enemy team carries TPs and is not committing heavily to anything in particular, it will be hard to get away with a teleportation. If you are planning a risky strike, assure that you have an escape item prepared and that you strike with timing such that you can arrive, immediately cast Mass Serpent Wards and Ether Shock if enemy creeps are present, and use your escape item in less than three seconds.
Your push can serve a secondary function, and it is an important consideration when your teleport is on cooldown, is what to do when a teamfight is expected to start. If your Boots of Travel are on cooldown or the fight has already started and you can teleport directly too it, get to that fight. As has been explained, your disables are incredily valuable and continue to be strong into the lategame. However, if a teamfight would be to your team's disadvantage, a teleport can delay the teamfight, break up the enemy team or deter it completely. By pressuring a tower, a 5-man teamfight will assure its destruction. Even if your team loses without you, the fight will be very costly for the eney team. If your previous tower seizes have been successful, the advantage that your team gained from the fight will give them a better chance of winning a fight without you, particurly if your teleport pressures an enemy from leaving a fight to intervene. Of course, if your team wins a fight, that gives you much more space to teleport or even push a lane. If the enemy buys back, consider that a victory. You can walk away and cost your enemies gold and later buy-back availability. You should not wantonly teleport to towers and leave your team stranded when there is a good chance that they will wipe, but the purpose of this section is to explain that there is more to pushing than merely gainig tower gold. Your potential makes enemy pushing attempts come at a high cost, and they will either abandon pushing efforts - costing them time in which they could have farmed xp and gold, lose a tower or hemorrhage heroes along the way, giving your own team an edge. Your teleportations should never be pointless suicide missions, but should serve one of the strategic purposes previously described.
Finally, your wards can be far more defensive. You may plant them at your own tower to deter pushing or in the middle of a teamfight to make it hard for the enemy to either fight or retreat. These uses, however, are less effective. If your team wipes, the enemy team will easily kill your wards - and gain gold for doing it. Sometimes this works and it's better than teleporting to Mass Serpent Ward if the other two lanes are pushed far in. When you're forced to do this, assure that you plant them. Don't let the enemy team perma-stun you. Teamfights are easily lost when even one hero cannot contribute to them.
WARDS CAN BE CONTROLLED AS DISTINCT ENTITIES! A very common mistake made with this hero is that they do not control the wards, letting them attack creeps and enemy heroes rather than towers, or letting them attack creeps instead of enemy heroes. When you have a command queued for your hero or you are in a place where you can afford to give your wards a target, do so. This greatly increases their potential, but has a small risk. non-veteran players may accidentally select their wards and then try to control their hero, only for him to die motionless while the serpent wards are recieving meaningless commands. Set Shadow Shaman to a control group, so that you can quickly select him if you unintentially take control of your serpent wards.
Shadow Shaman can use all spells together in order to stop a solo gank, save his life, and get him some gold in the process. However, it is very costly and not sure to work in all situations. Here is an example of it working against a Tiny, a very scary hero to meet in this game.
This is a mere list of item explanations, describing their functions and when they should be purchased.
Tango grants you or your lane partners health regeneration in lanes. It's cheap and you should only ever need one set.
Healing Salve serves a similar function for when your health drops too low. There is nothing more to say here.
Magic Stick grants you survivability and helps you keep your mana up, although only to a small degree. This will be sold eventually. While you should nearly always build a Magic Wand out of it, you are on a strict schedule and should not be spending the ~300 gold for this upgrade. The benefits to not help you. The capacity to hold more charges means little, as you will likely need to use the wand if even a fraction of the number of maximum charges are cast. The +4 all attributes are also rather meaningless. The intelligence and agility will do very little for you if you are playing a pusher Shadow Shaman, although the intelligence is great if you're playing as a more traditional disabler-support. The strength is marginally helpful, as it helps you survive when making your daring push attempts or in teamfights. However, earlier Boots of Travel are more valuable if you have a chance to push. If things are going very poorly and you happen to be in base, get the wand. Otherwise, you probably shouldn't bother.
Animal Courier should just be bought in the beginning. You will have the gold if you buy only these other starting items, and it will make life easier for your other supports. If you're beaten to it, buy wards. While a pushing Shadow Shaman has priorities other than buying support items, you should do so if nobody else is willing or able to do so.
Boots of Speed will be your next item. Without them, every other hero is far faster than you. This makes you easy to kill and much less useful when teamfighting and ganking starts.
Arcane Boots raise your mana pool and keep you from needing to go to base in the early-mid game. While you will almost immediately disassemble them, the mana-pool boost is still very nice, and the Energy Booster will be an ingredient in Octarine Core.
Boots of Travel is your core item. It takes you to your creeps and, if your creeps are approaching a tower, it is your ticked to seizing towers. Getting the recipe is difficult for an early-game support, so play it safe and hold onto your gold.
Blink Dagger, Glimmer Cape or Force Staff are good for positioning and escaping. There are guides on their usage far more comprehensive than I could offer, and the pages at Gamepedia a good place to get started. Which you choose depends on personal preference and the enemy's team composition. These items give you leeway to stay by enemy towers a bit longer, killing enemy creeps and reducing obstacles for your own.
Octarine Core is a good item to follow up on Boots of Travel. It decreases the cooldown of your wards from 120 seconds to 90 seconds, and the cooldown of your boots from 45 seconds to 33.75 seconds. This means more oppurtunities to strike, as there is nothing more frustrating than having an enemy tower exposed and nothing to do with it. It also provides good regeneration and raises your intelligence pool, decreasing the astounding impact of Mass Serpent Wards scaling mana cost. It is a good candidate for your next item after Boots of Travel, especially if you already have the Energy Booster from Arcane Boots
Aghanim's Scepter should be built after Octarine Core, if not immediately after Boots of Travel. It vastly increases the damage of each Mass Serpent Wards attack, a level 1 ward with scepter dealing more damage than a level 3 ward with no scepter. This means faster towers, more damage against enemy heroes that try to defend towers and, if you get them by T3s, greater ability to damage barracks.
Refresher Orb has the obvious benefit of more wards! Not only does that mean more damage over time, but more wards for your enemies to have to survive. The regeneration is a welcome bonus. However, a very common mistake made with this item is that it is built too early. It has a staggering mana cost, so an early build can leave Shadow Shaman too small a mana pool to ward twice. Items that grant intelligence, like Octarine Core and Aghinim's Scepter to a lesser extent, can give you the intelligence to make Refresher Orb a practical item. I have seen Shamans rush this item and it isn't pretty, they ward, refresh and find themselves with no mana to cast disables, much less ward a second time. Build this later and do the math to make sure that you can afford to use it, particularly if the enemy team has a Silencer, Outworld Devourer, Antimage or Diffusal Blade. These heroes and items drain your mana or intelligence, and should be taken into account.
Beyond these items come lesser, gimmicky items that don't deserve much discussion. Lotus Orb gives you a better chance to land wards late game, as the enemy team will be more than strong enough to stop you late-game if they are organized. Necronomicon can help you seize towers and push (or detect Techies mines at level 3). Upgraded Boots of Travel can let you piggy-back off your allies and ward the enemy team's base when no creeps are available. This, however, is really luxurious and should only be built when your five other slots are complete and you have buyback ready. The odds of them being useful are very, very slim.
Rejected items are items that seem plausibly helpful enough for you to get them, but aren't worth getting. Necronomicon, despite being listed in the previous section, arguably belongs here as well. More notably, Shadow Blade and Silver Edge are items that you should avoid. These items are commonly bought for escape, but this is a futile effort. They are easily counterable and cost too much gold. Even worse, you cannot use them properly as Shadow Shaman. The damage and attack speed are worthless for you, as is the break damage. These items are for initiating, not escaping. You will get far more out of the other positioning items listed.
Shadow Shaman does not need a lot of gold to be effective. Boots of Travel are your only core item in this build, and even then this is more than Shaman needs to be effective in teamfights. This is a strategy intended to develop a gold advantage for your team or to make it difficult for the enemy team to push. Good teleports against the right enemy team can win a game, but it is not enough. Despite this guide's emphasis on pushing, you should not shun your more supporting spells. You can support teamfights. You can buy wards. If nobody else on your team is fit to buy wards, you must. In these situations, you may need to abandon most of this guide, which is okay. You can't be inflexible, taking 30 minutes to farm Boots of Travel and hopeless teleporting away to a tier-2 tower while your barracks are under attack. Greed loses games, and you are not a hero that can afford to be greedy - which this build it is, to some extent.
If you have any questions or recommendations for this guide, please voice them. I am more than open to suggestions. Thanks for reading this guide and good luck on your MLG tactical-nuke plays.