Out of all of the characters in League of Legends, Shaco is probably the least fun character to fight against. His traps are highly annoying, fearing you and poking you with damage. He is extremely slippery and hard to kill, striking out of nowhere and disappearing just as quickly. Just when you think you have him, it turns out that was actually his clone and it explodes, netting Shaco yet another kill.
"Annoying" is the first word I'd use to describe him, and this is what Shaco wants you to think. He doesn't want you to know his weaknesses, so he keeps you on your toes, constantly afraid of jack-in-the-box traps and invisible backstabs. However, he has weaknesses, and this week, we're going to talk about how to put the killer clown back in his toybox.
Before we begin any discussions, you should watch his Champion Spotlight. While Shaco has had a few changes (some as recent as the Lulu patch), his general gameplay has not changed very much, and the spotlight gives a good idea of what his tools are.
Now that you understand what he can do, we can start talking about his general gameplay. As you saw in the video, Shaco has basically two builds: an AD build focused on Deceive and Backstab and an AP build focused on Jack-in-the-box and Two-Shiv Poison. AD Shaco can be played on both Summoner's Rift and the Crystal Scar, while AP Shaco is not very useful on Summoner's Rift. AP Shaco can also be good in some other "fun" modes, such as ARAM.
AD Shaco mainly uses Jack-in-the-box traps as crowd controls or as cheap wards. They are not as good as wards anymore, as the traps only last for 30 seconds (rather than the full minute they used to), but they are still fairly useful for scouting. AD Shaco's main objective is to catch someone out of position, Deceive her, and stab her in the back, then follow up with a shiv, and if necessary, more autoattacks to finish the job. He'll mainly use Hallucinate after his initial attack to provide himself some cover and extra damage.
AP Shaco uses his boxes as his main offense. He finds an enemy ahead of time and places a series of boxes somewhere he thinks his opponent might go. He might use baiting tricks to get his enemy to chase him, where she falls victim to a bunch of children's toys. He can use his shiv as a teamfight tool or to harass people by hitting them with a shiv and teleporting away. AP Shaco has to use Hallucinate at just the right moment; he needs the clone to explode on his opponent, so he has to make sure the enemy thinks it's him.
Both Shaco builds want you to live in constant fear. AD Shaco epitiomizes this strategy by attacking you from places you think are safe. This is especially true on Summoner's Rift. AD Shaco will Deceive to a bush, using his three seconds of stealth to get to the bush without your observing him. He'll lay some boxes in the bush, and when you get close, he throws you a surprise party -- only this party is the kind where you get shot and stabbed by an evil clown.
The easiest way to deal with Shaco in Summoner's Rift is by placing wards. Warding bushes near your lane takes away his hiding places and removes a lot of the fear involved in fighting against him. Even if your bush is warded, don't jump into the bush unless it's been at least 30 seconds since Shaco was last there. Even if he's gone, a box trap could still be there, and your actual lane opponents could take advantage of his traps. If possible, use skills that trigger the boxes safely, such as Yorick's ghouls or Maokai's saplings.
Shaco also has some really effective jungle stealing tricks on Summoner's Rift. When you're playing against him, make sure that you're aware that he can steal your red buff at the start of the game. If your lanes are warding to defend against him, you should really expect him to try to disrupt the jungle by stealing creeps. If you have wards up, though, he has to be visible at some point, and you can see him as he's trying to be tricky. If you see him enter your jungle, ping him and get some of the team to come over for a gank. Shaco might survive, but if you take off 3/4ths of his health, he will lose a lot of jungling time. If he dies, your team gets a huge lead.
On Dominion, AD Shaco is more of a scout than a fighter. He wants to find ganks, just like in Summoner's Rift. However, unless he constantly ganks bottom (which will eventually be read and countered), ganks are few and far between. He needs to place boxes everywhere to give his team vision, especially when enemy placements are unknown. His Deceive can scout enemy positions without revealing what his team knows.
The main trick to defeating Shaco on the Crystal Scar is clearing boxes and being aggressive. Shaco is terrible in teamfights (even with the recent buffs), so making big pushes with your team puts the enemy down a man. Shaco can't do much if your team sticks together. You may even want to split into a 3-2 configuration to make your bottom lane more resistant to ganking. Casters on your team would be smart to invest in a Hextech Sweeper as well; it's great for finding hidden clowns and their stupid boxes. It also reveals whether Shaco is himself or a Hallucinated clone.
I hate boxes. Did I mention that?
AP Shaco is an annoyance. Although Shaco is not very threatening in general (he just wants you to think he is), AP Shaco is the ultimate example of a paper tiger. He's only deadly because you are stumbling into his boxes; even his shivs aren't that painful, and his Deceive crits are incredibly weak.
AP Shaco has to get you to pay attention to him. More so than AD Shaco, he just wants you to divert energy into dealing with him. If you stumble into his elaborate box traps, he gets ahead. If you don't, you're still wasting time trying to kill him. Avoid chasing him and focus on the actual game.
The best thing you can do against AP Shaco is get a Hextech Sweeper. A single burst from the Sweeper will reveal a huge area. If you're worried about box traps, just deploy the Sweeper; if you don't see any boxes, the area is safe, and you can move through it. I actually recommend non-casters getting it against AP Shaco; the item is cheap and gives both health and CDR, which everyone can benefit from. The advantage of keeping one enemy team member from doing anything is pretty strong, so multiple people on your team should have Sweepers and use them frequently.
If you see AP Shaco in a teamfight, don't spend too much energy trying to kill him, and don't attack him when he's near an ally. A lot of people focus-fire Shaco as a matter of course, but he's probably a hallucination and you're probably just going to get your allies killed. AP Shaco can't actually do much in a teamfight except throw shivs that don't do much damage. If you see Shaco throw a shiv, go ahead and focus him down; hallucinations can't use skills.
One annoying thing that bad Shaco players do is deploy a bunch of boxes on his own capture points. Shaco is best as a scout, so this strategy is sketchy at best. If he does this, just push minions into the enemy turret; the minions will trip the boxes and ruin Shaco's trap. If you're playing Shaco, try to avoid doing this. It can be good to box the approaches to your capture points if you're afraid of backdoors, but in most cases, you want to save your boxes for not-obvious traps for the enemy or for vision in the jungle.
On that note though, if you trip an enemy box, keep in mind what that means. Shaco knows you're coming, and it's possible he'll send his team to meet you.
Although he wants you to think differently, Shaco is a kitten. And though the Lulu patch did buff his teamfighting a bit, Shaco's still very reliant on a small number of attacks. His real trick is deception, not fighting. Don't be intimidated by him, play smart, and avoid walking into traps. Good luck and have fun!
We understand what it's like to climb the skill ladder in League of Legends. The Summoner's Guidebook teaches you the tools you need to get a competitive edge. Whether you're climbing the ranked ladder, playing Draft Dominion, or getting crushed by intermediate bots, every enemy has a weakness. And every Thursday, Patrick Mackey shows how you can improve improve on yours.