TFT Shapeshifter Guide - This Isn't Even My Final Form!

TFT Shapeshifter Guide
raphael 11.10.2019 0

TFT Shapeshifter Guide

It is a part of our series of advanced TFT guides. If you're new to the game, we recommend checking some more beginner-friendly materials. Let's get into TFT Shapeshifter Guide.


Since their major buff in patch 9.17, Shapeshifters started to have a considerable impact on the meta. They're very specific units that combine high survivability with outstanding damage output. Champions like Shyvana, Gnar, and of course, Swain have tremendous carry potential - at least when they have the right items and a team comp that they can excel in.

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Currently, there are a few different builds that utilize this trait. While collecting all six Shapeshifters is still extremely powerful, you don't have to do this in order to be strong. They are often used as additional power when you want to get other powerful synergies on your board. Most notably Wild and Dragon, but Demon and Hextech are also doable. However, building a comp around Shapeshifters and navigating it through early and mid-game can be a little tricky, so we're going to try and help you with that.


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Strengths and Weaknesses of Shapeshifters

Before we go any deeper, though, we have to talk about the identity of this champion origin. Shapeshifters use transformation mechanics, which means they change their appearance and some other important stuff when they ult. Nidalee, Elise, and Gnar are all ranged champions in their base form, but after transformation, they become melee. For Jayce and Shyvana, the process is inverted – they go from melee to range. Swain is the only unaffected unit in that area.


At the same time, all Shapeshifters (again except for Swain) will only use their ability once per round and then stay in their new form until the battle ends. That's why spell power is usually one of the least desired stats on them. However, you will often be able to find some other units in your comp that will get a lot of value from it.


If you have three Shapeshifters, the trait bonus will give them +60% HP when they transform. If you have six of them, the bonus goes up to +120%. It's quite evident that these are incredibly high numbers. They're the reason why health-scaling items like Titanic Hydra and Warmog's Armor are solid on these units. They can get to a higher total Health level than Brawlers, but they're much less consistent.


On the other hand, every time that one of your Shapeshifters dies before transforming, you will lose a ton of value. It can happen when your opponent has access to really excellent burst damage, some mana-denying mechanic (Hush, Demons and even Kassadin can sometimes really throw a wrench in your plans), Phantom trait or Glacial chain stuns. You always have to keep in mind these threats when you're positioning. Usually, when you can get them all to transform, you have a top tier comp in your hands. You're going to struggle hard when some of your primary carries die without using ults. 

Key Units and Items

Gnar – even after the 9.19 nerfs, Gnar remains a really powerful champion that's useful in basically every Shapeshifter comp. He has strong base stats and access to two other synergies (Wild and Yordle). Most importantly, though, his ultimate completely reposition enemy backline, and it can stun everybody in range for 2 seconds – it often hits all or almost all opponent units. A good Gnar ult can single-handedly win a round against a strong front-to-back team comp.


Important note: Gnar's ability tooltip says that he jumps to the furthest target when he ults. That's incorrect. Nobody is exactly sure how his ultimate works. It seems that he'll either jump to the target that he's been auto-attacking or to the furthest enemy inside his attack range. He won't decorner enemy carry every single time. Moreover, you might want to position him on the frontline. It's a bit risky, but it usually makes his ults more valuable.


Shyvana – she only becomes a core unit, if you include the Dragon synergy in your build. Getting extra Health from the Shapeshifter trait works well with the additional magic resistance. Even after the 9.19 nerf, it's still a 75% damage reduction. She also deals a hefty amount of mixed damage. The auto-attack burn can carry really hit hard in the mid-game. You're going to want to use her alongside Aurelion Sol or Pantheon.

Swain – he's incredibly strong when you get him to two stars, but that can be said about pretty much every five-cost unit. More importantly, you're going to need Swain if you want to get the additional health from the six Shapeshifters bonus. Generally, you should wait for making him your carry, until you can two-star him, which can be a little inconvenient. He's also an Imperial unit, which opens up some pivot options.


In general, if you want to go for six Shapeshifters, you're going to need all of them to pull it off. That makes each one a fundamental unit in a sense. Moreover, Nidalee also enables Wild, so she's often included in most of the comps. She also provides some healing and is a mighty early game unit. Elise is pretty much used only as an enabler of six Shapeshifters and potential Demon synergy. However, she is easy to three-star, and if you do that, she becomes deceivingly tanky. 


Recently more people started using Jayce as a carry and hyperrolling to get him three-starred and kill everyone with powerful Titanic Hydra splash damage. The item got hotfixed, so it's not as powerful as it was, but you can still play it if you like the rolling strats.

Hextech Gunblade – works really well on Shyvana and Swain, so definitely go for this item if you want either of these two champions as your carry. They both deal a lot of damage and are hard to kill, which makes the life steal and offensive stats valuable.


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Guinsoo's Rageblade – both Gnar and Shyvana are auto-attack based champions that tend to live a long time, which makes them utilize this item really well. The Wild trait lets you stack Rageblade even faster. It's essential to make sure that the item user doesn't get burst at the beginning of the round.


Warmog's Armor – it's pretty simple, the more maximum health you have, the more value you get from the percentage regeneration. Moreover, the item can help you make sure that your crucial Shapeshifter actually gets to transform in a fight. It's often used on Gnar or Shyvana. You can also treat it as a less effective, but more consistent alternative to Gunblade.


Thornmail/Phantom Dancer/Guardian Angel – if you're playing Shapeshifters and Dragons with Shyvana as your carry, you're going to want some protection from auto-attackers, these three items are your best options. Guardian Angel is also really important for Swain since his ult deals damage even when he's being resurrected.


Titanic Hydra – even if you're not going for the hyperroll Jayce strategy, the max health damage from this item is handy. Combine it with stacking attack speed from Rageblade or just the Wild trait, and you can get insane value out of it.


You can also use plenty of other items well. You're not really dependent on particular combinations, which is another advantage of these setups. Unless you're playing the Jayce variant, then you're going to need Hydras and Hurricanes, but we're going to talk about it in a moment.

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Item Priority

The item priority in Shapeshifter comps is much less important than in many other builds. You get a lot of stats and bonuses just from traits. That being said, you shouldn't just pick up random items from carousels, if you have a possibility of getting anything that you want.


Recurve Bow – attack speed is always a good start to have in TFT. Recurve Bows, in general, tend to be quite contested, so you might not be able to get them if you're a late pick. They're used to make Guinsoo's Rageblade and Titanic Hydra, which are some of our core items. There's also always an option of getting Rapid Firecannon or Phantom Dancer. It's also good to deny this item from your opponents. Moreover, having a lot of Bows can be good if you ever have to pivot into another comp.   


Giant's Belt – yes, I know. It's not that contested and placing it so high on our priority list feels kind of weird. However, if I'm committing to Shapeshifters, I will always want to have multiple Giant's Belts. This trait uses Warmog's better than any other. Titanic Hydra is also a great option. In the endgame, you can also give a Morellonomicon to Swain or Aurelion Sol if you're playing him for Dragons.


Spatula – in general, Shapeshifters have a rather low priority on Spatula. Of course, it's always good to take it away and make it harder for other players to get it. However, you will only need it in particular scenarios – either for Runaan's Hurricane or for Mittens, but we're going to get back to it later. You can also get Darkin for Gnar, just to make him ult sooner.

B.F. Sword – attack damage is always nice. Furthermore, this component builds into Hextech Gunblade and Guardian Angel. Both of these items are exceptional, especially if you're planning on getting Swain at some point.


Needlessly Large Rod – I said earlier that we don't need spell power, and it's true. That being said, both Guinsoo's Rageblade and Hextech Gunblade use the Rod as one of the components. I would recommend going for it only if you already have a free Recurve Bow or B.F. Sword in store.


After that, it becomes pretty situational. You want to finish some key items if you have free components. Chain Vest (Thornmail, GA) and Negatron Cloak (Dragon's Claw, Bloodthirster) are actually perfect, and they're usually left for the taking, even if you're picking last. In certain situations, you might need some other components.


Team Comp Variants


Six Shapeshifters Four Wild

Six Shapeshifters Four Wild


It's the most straightforward variant that also remains strong. It provides vast amounts of bonus health when your units transform. It also utilizes the Wild synergy to counter all the Yordle players and other enemies that use dodging. When it gets going, this comp is tough to kill, while also stacking up the extra attack speed.


There are some downsides, though. The most obvious one is the dependency on Swain. You need both him and level 8 to get going with this build. Moreover, you don't have any non-Shapeshifter frontline, so some of them probably won't get to transform in time.


You want all six shifters in your final comp, so you can't make any of them your temporary carry, which makes transitions difficult. The Wild unit that you're eventually going to get rid of is Warwick, and he can't be used as they carrying unless you want to keep him and kick Ahri or Rengar. Then it's a bit easier, but your endgame comp might suffer from it.


Staying true to this build, the fastest moment that you can get Dragons is level 9, which unfortunately is late. That makes Shyvana a much less reliable carry option. You will pretty much end up playing some substitute carries until you hit two-star Gnar, which can be problematic, especially when facing builds with earlier power spikes. However, if you manage to upgrade your Swain, you become pretty much unbeatable.


Yordle Shyvana Build

Yordle Shyvana

It is a really interesting build that emerged in 9.19 with the introduction of Mittens – the item that lets you make a Yordle. It provides a nice set of synergies with eight units on the board. You get six Yordles, three Sorcerers, three Shapeshifters, and two Dragons. The idea is pretty simple – we're making an unkillable raid boss Shyvana, while also having some extra damage from Sorcerers, Gnar and Kennen. Especially the last two units can synergize with each other well.


Before we go any further – I think that this variant looks much better on paper than in the actual game. 60% dodge chance is neat, but it doesn't make you invulnerable to auto-attackers. The same goes for 75% spell damage mitigation – you can lose to strong Sorcerers with this build. Besides, every four Wild players counter you, making the Yordle passive completely useless.


That being said, if you're not behind when you assemble this comp and you manage to get good Shyvana items, you can do well with it. Going to level 9 is never an option. It's much better to roll for three-star Shyvana because it's a more significant power spike than adding any other unit. You can also consider three-starring Kennen or Veigar, but that's quite greedy and might not be worth it in the end.  


Hyperroll Jayce Build

Hyperroll Jayce


As I mentioned earlier, Shapeshifters recently got a lot of interesting build possibilities. This one also arrived in 9.19, because of the Titanic Hydra changes. The numbers on this item have already been significantly reduced, but the mechanic remains the same. The idea is to build Titanic Hydras and Runaan’s Hurricanes (go for two Hydras or two Hurricanes if you can) on Jayce to abuse the extra health from the Shapeshifter trait and his burst of attack speed right after transformation.


The Hyperroll Jayce strategy is item-reliant, so you might want to lose some health in the first PvP rounds purposefully, to increase your chances of getting what you want. You will need two other Shapeshifters, and then you can go for four Wild, to make sure that Jayce never misses. You can also play Camille or Vi to get the Hextech trait. On levels five and six, you should hyperroll to get three-star Jayce. You can also consider three-starring Nidalee, but it's not necessary.


After getting your primary carry, you can start pushing levels. In most cases, you're going to have three Shapeshifters, four Wild and two Hextech. If you high roll hard, you might be able to hit level 8 and go with the six Shapeshifter four Wild comp. I'm describing this strategy separately because the way of playing the early game is entirely different.


As for every hyperrolling strategy, there's some risk involved. You can't pivot out of it after you roll your gold and not hit the units that you want. Remember that there are only 26 Jayces in the shared pool, so make sure to scout how many other players are also going for this strategy. If it's more than one, you might want to give up on it and use your econ for leveling instead.


Wild Sorcerers Dragon Shapeshifters

Wild Sorcerer Dragon Shapeshifter

This build became pretty popular in patch 9.18. While some of the champions and synergies used here got nerfed in the current patch, so did some counters to this comp. It can come online really quickly because you get all the synergies that you need with only seven pieces, and you don't need any five-costs. It actually opens up a possibility of staying at level 7 and rolling for three-star Ahri, Shyvana, and maybe even another unit.


While the attack speed from Wild might not be the most useful thing for Sorcerers, it allows them to charge up their ultimates faster. It's a hard counter to any Yordle comp, and it does decently well against most meta setups. It's more magic damage heavy than the other variants that we discussed.


Two of your Sorcerers have to be Ahri and Aurelion Sol. The third one is optional. Twisted Fate or Lulu might be better against front-to-back comps, Morgana will help you deal with Assassins. If you already hit your three-stars or don't think it's worth rolling, you can keep leveling up. While you're not likely to get any powerful synergies, you can always use extra frontline or damage. It depends on the match, but in my experience, Cho'Gath is always good since he can tank a lot and uses the Sorcerer buff pretty well. Adding Kennen to help to deal with Assassins or Brand/Karthus for extra backline damage can also work out.  


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Tips on Navigating a Shapeshifter Comp

As I mentioned earlier, one of the most challenging things about playing Shapeshifters in the early game is the fact that you can't give items to them (unless you get an early Shyvana and want to make her a carry). Nidalee and Jayce can be powerful carries early on, but usually, you're going to want to have your items on someone else when you hit your final comp.


There are three things that you can do about that. The first option is deciding not to go for six Shapeshifters, playing Jayce as your temporary carry to sell him off eventually. It somewhat limits your possibilities, but instead, you get a stronger early game. The second option is collecting more Nidalees and Jayces on your bench – not to three-star them, but to have an item less copy that you can later use to keep your synergy, but transfer items. It's a decent option, but it can hinder your economy and take up bench space. Finally, you can, of course, play a non-Shapeshifter carry that can use the items well. It's not perfect, but this way, you can keep your options open and not waste that much money.    


Early on, you want to get as many two-star Shapeshifters as you can and then play three of them. One-stars have meager amounts of base health, making the extra 60% not that useful. Later on, if you're going for all six, you have to decide whether you want to play as many of them as possible, or temporarily use other synergies. Adding some Knights or Brawlers onto your board is always decent, so you might want to do that. Most importantly, though, don't waste your gold on rolling too much. You want to level up quickly, to get Swain and a two-star Gnar. When you get them, you should be in a perfect spot. Most Shapeshifter comps (except for the hyperroll Jayce strategy) are power spiking at level eight, with Gnar as one of the main carries or at least a major disruption tool. That's why using gold for econ and leveling is usually the better option.


TFT Shapeshifters

Shapeshifter strategies rely on surviving the initial burst to get access to their transformations and the extra health provided by the trait. They are sensitive to any meta changes. Any buff to Hush or Demon mana burn can significantly decrease their reliability and overall power level.


However, when there are no ways of consistently preventing them from ulting, they tend to find themselves at the top of the food chain. Especially now, it's definitely worth giving them a shot. Some of the key units might be quite contested, though.

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What are shapeshifters in TFT?

TFT Shapeshifters are units that can transform during a round. When they do that, they often get a bulk of base stats and change the way they auto-attack. Shapeshifters can also gain 60% or 120% bonus Health from their class trait as they transform. 


What are the best Gnar items in TFT?

The best items for Gnar are Dragon's Claw, Guinsoo's Rageblade, Bloodthirster, Warmog's Armor, and Darkin. Use any combination of these offensive and defensive items to make your Gnar as powerful as possible!


What are the best Shyvana items in TFT?

The items that you should build on Shyvana are Hextech Gunblade, Thornmail, Guardian Angel, Phantom Dancer, and Warmog's Armor. If you're playing her as your carry, you should also make sure to include another Dragon for the additional magic resistance. 


Is it worth to go for six Shapeshifters?

Six Shapeshifters is one of the most reliable late-game team comps in TFT. It can even get you top 1. That being said, it's really risky and requires getting a 5-cost unit - Swain. I would only recommend going for it if you're high rolling. 

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