SMITE Erlang Shen build guide: The Illustrious Sage has been Erlang time coming

I'm here with every tip (and a spear behind it) for SMITE's Season 3, bringing you every trick you'll need to make your own legend with the Illustrious Sage.

SMITE's Season 3 has thrown the Battleground of the Gods into chaos. A greedy dragon has crawled out from beneath the mountain. Storm after storm crashes onto the field. Cold winds blow from the north. It is a dangerous time in desperate need of a hero. 

Luckily, the Illustrious Sage has answered the call. 

Entering the fray as swift as a coursing river, and with all the force of a great typhoon, he might have the strength of a raging fire, but how to play him can be as mysterious as the dark side of the moon. While reckless play can end your legend early, follow us and reader -- we'll make a Sage out of you. 

Engaging the enemy with Erlang Shen

Erlang Shen, the Chinese Pantheon's third Warrior entry, is a potent frontliner with two main modes of play. When built offensively, Erlang Shen has the ability to lock down and quickly destroy any target he comes across - though without the survivability the other Chinese frontliners (Guan Yu and Sun Wukong) possess. 

When built defensively, Erlang Shen becomes a potent "set-up" tank, locking down single targets and allowing your powerful Mages and Hunters to land their critical skillshots, while soaking a large amount of damage before needing to retreat. 

Where many Warriors can also perform well in either role, most of them toe the line between the two, and wind up somewhere in the middle. The Illustrious Sage, however, must become fairly committed to either one role or the other (offensive or defensive) in order to do whichever job he's chosen. 

Erlang Shen is a powerful pick in either capacity, but it will take more than valor to make the most of him. He's a soldier and a sage, and correctly playing the hero of the Jade Empire will take a lot of thought - and a lot of practice with the abilities we cover below. 


Howling Celestial Dog

Each time Erlang Shen hits an enemy with a Basic Attack, his dog hits as well for 15% of his Basic Attack power. This can trigger items for Basic Attacks at 15% of their normal damage and can Critical Hit.

While Erlang Shen's base damage is actually a little on the low side, his faithful Howling Celestial Dog helps him more than make up for it in the late game, adding not only 15% of his Basic Attack damage, but also adding more chances to proc Basic Attack triggers, like Executioner, Qin's Sais, or Frostbound Hammer. 

This helps Erlang Shen keep slows and other debuffs applied to enemies when he's on front-liner "lockdown" mode, and quickly shred any target when he's taken to the offensive. 

Spot Weakness

Erlang Shen opens his third eye and analyzes the enemy's strengths and weaknesses. When activated, Erlang Shen gains additional Physical Damage on each strike, and ignores Basic Attack movement penalties for the duration. While on Cooldown, successful Basic Attacks reduce the Cooldown of this ability.

Damage: 25/40/55/70/85 (+15% of your physical power)

Cost: 60/65/70/75/80 mana

Cooldown: 14 seconds

Duration: 5 seconds

One of the best abilities for sticking to a target, Spot Weakness is a 5 second long upgrade on Hastened Fatalis -- allowing Erlang Shen to attack an enemy relentlessly without falling behind from the Basic Attack movement penalty. Combined with Frostbound Hammer (a core item to any build of Erlang Shen), Spot Weakness forces the enemy to have an escape ability at the ready - or suffer the Sage's three-pronged spear for quite awhile. 

While more defensively inclined Sages will pick up a single point in this ability by level 4 and leave it until last, more aggressive Shens will often level Spot Weakness second for "free" extra damage on their Basic Attacks. 


Erlang Shen launches a spear that damages enemies on impact. Enemies in the dead center of the effect when it lands are Crippled and Rooted in place.

Damage: 85/130/175/220/265 (+45% of your physical power)

Cost: 50/55/60/65/70 mana

Cooldown: 12 seconds

Duration: 1.15/1.3/1.4/1.6/1.75 seconds

Pin is without a doubt one of the single most potent Crowd Control abilities currently available in SMITE. Sporting a relative high damage (on par with Sun Wukong's Magic Cudgel), Pin is a long range, swift moving projectile that keeps the enemy from going anywhere - disabling both normal movement with a root as well as movement abilities with a cripple. 

While the actual travel time varies with range (spears launched closer will land more quickly than those thrown at max distance), Erlang Shen is pretty quick to Pin down a target no matter where they are - and when it takes either Purification or a Crowd Control-immune Ultimate to break out, plenty of enemies are going to stay Pinned. 

Defensive Erlang Shen maxes Pin first and foremost, as increasing the damage early and the duration will secure more kills for the team. The soldiering side of the Illustrious Sage will tend to take one point by four for the utility and combo potential, then leave Pin for last as it offers the least benefit to your raw damage output when building damage. 

 72 Transformations

Erlang Shen transforms into a Mink or Turtle and charges forward.

Mink: Damages all enemies, stopping on first god hit and increasing Attack Speed for 6s.

Turtle: Knocks up all enemies in path and gains a health shield for 12s.

Mink Damage: 90/150/210/270/330 (+85% of physical power)

Turtle Damage: 75/125/175/225/275 (+40% of physical power)

Mink Attack Speed: 15/20/25/30/35%

Turtle Shield Health: 70/110/145/180/215

Cost: 65/70/75/80/85 mana

Cooldown: 18/17/16/15/14 seconds

Fans of the Monkey King Sun Wukong will certainly recognize Erlang Shen's third ability, 72 Transformations. While the story says that Shen matched each form Wukong took, the people's champion has only seen fit to bring his best two forward in SMITE'Battleground -- the absurdly aggressive Mink, and the combo-enabling, crowd-controlling Turtle. 

The Mink is fairly close to the Tiger -- it travels swiftly forward, turning is harder than normal, and it will stop on the first enemy hit. However where Tiger offered a brief stun, Mink offers a colossal attack speed buff (and a healthy amount of damage), making it the primary choice (and level up) for offensively inclined Erlang Shens. 

Turtle, the bread and butter transformation for Erlang's "keep a single target sitting in one place until the end of days" combo, is a powerful (if a bit silly looking) stand-in for the Monkey King's Bull form. The Turtle will cruise along (at the same speed as any other transformation), knocking up any enemy in Shen's way, and granting him a moderate damage shield for his trouble.

Defensive Shens would do well to level 72 Transformations second and get very comfortable Turtling -- its health shield and the ability to disrupt entire enemy engagements (as well as pin a single enemy) is a powerful tool for any warrior trying to control the flow of a battle. 

Much as the other 72 Transformations in the game operates, your cursor position selects which form Erlang Shen will take when the ability is activated -- position the cursor farther away from your God to become the Mink, and closer to Shen to transform into the mighty turtle. 

Worth noting is that despite the lore, the Illustrious Sage does not win the heads up against the Monkey King in this particular battle - when Bull and Turtle clash, it's the shelled Sage that's sent flying. 

 9 Turns Blessing

Erlang Shen Taunts nearby enemy gods, gaining damage mitigation for the next 4 seconds. Afterwards, if Erlang Shen is still alive, he is healed for a flat amount plus 20% of his Maximum Health.

Heal: 150/240/330/420/510 (+20% of his maximum health)

Damage Mitigation: 10/11.25/12.5/13.75/15%

Taunt Duration: .8/.9/1/1.1/1.25 seconds

Cost: 80/85/90/95/100 mana

Cooldown: 85 seconds

9 Turns Blessing is, as a defensive player, a fantastic way to follow up a Turtle charge through the engaging enemy line -- the taunt will direct the damage (and enemy vision) away from your team and onto your higher protections, then cap it off with a solid heal to keep you in the fight.

As an offensive player, it's a great way to keep any targets that haven't died from your initial combo close at hand, letting you apply additional precious Basic Attacks to the enemy's face before they have a chance to flee. 

The 9 Turns Blessing, in either case, is a powerful cone of crowd control, and a fantastic sustain and positioning tool for Erlang Shen, combining with his two other CC abilities to lock the Sage in as one of the wisest in the world when it comes to keeping an enemy still. 

Items and Gameplay

Erlang Shen is a shining example of a Warrior's role in SMITE - control and disrupt. A natural leader in engagements, the Sage wants to find the center of every fight and control enemy positioning with Pin and 9 Turns Blessing, allowing your more powerful mages to land their otherwise unreliable haymaker spells -- at which point your team is sure to win. 

Alternatively, in smaller engagements, Erlang Shen also has 72 ways to keep a single enemy from doing much of anything, or going anywhere. Engaging an out of position enemy with 72 Transformations (Turtle), canceling the form as soon as the enemy is knocked up, then spinning around and landing a Pin allows Erlang Shen to deal massive damage uncontested while completely disabling the enemy from escaping - securing quick kills for yourself or teammates. 

Unfortunately, Erlang Shen's dual nature as soldier and scholar is his greatest strength - but also his greatest weakness. While less overwhelming Warrior choices are much better at treading the middle ground, dealing damage here and soaking damage there, Shen will always be great at one bit of Warrioring -- but a little lackluster on the other.

The offensive build covered below will certainly shred nearly any single target (including tanks), but leaves Shen more than a little vulnerable to the massive damage output of carries in SMITE Season 3. Tankier builds can certainly weather the storm with Turtle, 9 Turns Blessing, and fairly high protections, but will not approach the damage for single, quick kills until the very late game. 

In each game, try to identify how to best disrupt the enemy and control the flow of engagements. If the enemy lineup has a powerful, high priority target and not much peel, an offensive build can quickly Pin them down and make short work of them before Turtle-forming back through the enemy lines. However, if your team's gameplan is more of a "protect the Queen" strategy, where peeling and soaking damage is more relevant than even Shen's considerable ability to carry, then a tankier approach (and using Pin to save allies rather than doom enemies) is far more likely to yield a victory. 

If you're more on the "tranquil as a forest" defensive plan, then pick up either Watcher's Gift or Mark of the Vanguard, then Ninja Tabi (to apply on-hit effects even more frequently and keep your enemies Frostbound), Frostbound Hammer, a Steel Mail item (Sovereignty if your team doesn't have one, Mystical or Midgardian Mail if it does), a Silver Talisman item (Heartward Amulet if your team is lacking, Bulwark of Hope if not, and potentially Pestilence against enemy healers), Runeforged Hammer to increase the overall damage of your team on targets afflicted with Frostbound (or other slows), and Qin's Sais (selling the starter item) to give you at least a little damage to throw onto enemies, or Breastplate of Valor to add a little armor and allow you to Pin and Turtle more often if your team has the DPS covered. 

On the other hand, those Shens that are on fire within would do better to purchase Death's Toll and Warrior Tabi early, follow them up with Frostbound Hammer to keep targets in attack range, grab a massive damage spike with Qin's Sais, then keep the protection shred and damage ups coming with IchaivalStone Cutting Sword, and Executioner or Bloodforge

Here's the TL;DR:

Offensive: Warrior's Tabi > Frostbound Hammer > Qin's Sais > Ichaival > Stone Cutting Sword > Executioner/Bloodforge/Flex slot

Defensive: Ninja Tabi > Frostbound Hammer > Steel Mail tier 3 > Silver Talisman tier 3 > Runeforged Hammer > Qin's Sais/Breastplate of Valor/ flex slot

Ultimately your decisions will make or break your games with Erlang Shen, so be sure to temper that soldier's bravery with more than a bit of scholar's wisdom. While the Sage is powerful enough that just mashing buttons may land you a kill, it will more often lead to defeat, death, and a long wait in the respawn fountain. Mink or Turtle, deathdealer or defender -- these choices may take Erlang time and more than a few mistakes to master, but if you believe you Shen, you're halfway there. 

So let's get down to business. 

Now that you've learned how to soldier scholar warrior sage, go forth and conquer! But be sure to come back and tell us how you became a legend in SMITE's Season 3 with Erlang Shen, the Illustrious Sage. 

Published Jul. 13th 2016
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