Swain Build Guide

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Master Tacticianing with Swain

written by berzerk_dragon

Swain Build

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    Why hello there. I am berzerk dragon and I love playing as Swain. Swain is a tanky caster with a dash of support. His laning phase is to be feared, and he can easily snowball into a nigh unkillable monstrosity with a few kills. As a DoT based champion, Swain's damage output is often underestimated. A good Swain will think ahead and press any advantage he can get.

  • Changelog

    Got a buff on Swain's passive.

    Quoted Text:

    * Carrion Renewal now restores mana instantly

    *Removed "Build Example" section, replaced with 3 "sample build" sections to showcase a larger variety of item paths.

    *Fixed some typos
    *Added a note in Psychological Warfare. I just don't like inadvertently offending people without some kind of explanation.

    OMYGAW Sweet new AP items! They're very good, so expect to see them a lot.

    *Wrote a new Introduction
    *Updated builds to include new items, too bad the builder links are broken. Guess I'll have to make do with listing down the example builds until it's fixed v.v
    *Added a "Bad Matchups" section. Still a WIP, so I'll add stuff as I think of it :)

    Just a couple changes to the items section. A small clarification on whether to get Rylai's or RoA and the addition of Void Staff. I still can't believe I forgot about it for so long -_-'

    Updated the items section to reflect Doran's changes. I've also bumped up Deathcap priority; you should be getting it before DFG. I'm sorry I didn't say so before, but I didn't realize how good the OPcap was.

  • Abilities

    Carrion Renewal
    Roadkill? DELICIOUS. This passive gives you great harass sustainability early game, lets you lane forever mid game, and makes your creep farming effectively free late game! As long as you have even mediocre last hitting skills, you will love this passive.

    With patch v1.0.0.107, mana is now restored instantly instead of over time. Now you don't have to space out your farming when low on mana, just kill away. On the other hand, it loses the synergy with Chalice of Harmony, but that wasn't too important in the first place.

    For reference, Carrion Renewal returns 9 plus your level mana per kill.

    The people at Riot call this skill "Laserbird." I do too.
    Honestly, there's not much I can say about this skill. It's technically Swain's most damaging skill, but can be easily broken by walking away. At least it has a great total AP ratio of .9

    Nevermore is your biggest utility spell. It's not much, but an AoE root is surprisingly versatile. Enemy running? Nevermore. Enemy on your (or an ally's) heels? Nevermore. Ganking? Nevermore. Poking? Nevermore. Checking bushes? Nevermore. Extra initiation wtfbbq? Nevermore.
    You should be using Nevermore all the time. If you've never done so, read Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" and take note of how often he uses Nevermore. Make Mr. Poe proud with gratuitous abuse of your W key.

    Do you know know what's better than damage? MOAR DAMGE!!1! *ahem* Torment is your main damage spell. Not only does it deal respectable damage by itself, it boosts the output of all of your other damage sources. ALL OF THEM.

    Ravenous Flock
    Swain's ultimate turns him into a Giant Demon Bird, and grants Swain a new taunt and a new set of 3(!) jokes. OP. Seriously though, Ravenous Flock has 3 purposes.

    1) Restore health. This, combined with your passive, keeps Swain in lane until he gets that shopping bug or gets 5-man ganked.
    2) Staying alive in fights. Without his ult Swain crumbles like a soggy piece of styrofoam in any real fight. Be sure to turn it on so you don't die. If you have a Zhonya's Hourglass, Ravenous Flock still works even in stasis. That gives you 2 seconds of free health!
    3) Farming. It's on a 10 second CD. Just use it.

    Now, if you aren't careful, Ravenous Flock will suck your blue bar dry faster than an addict drinking coffee. If you don't want to have mana problems, you need to learn how to manage your ult. For beginners who are having trouble hanging on to their mana pool, I present a few guidelines:

    For farming: no longer than 3 seconds.
    For recovering: no longer than 5 seconds.
    For teamfights: no longer than 7 seconds. Be wary of stuns and silences, since they can lock you in your ult and make you waste mana.

  • Masteries + Runes

    For Masteries, I like to go 9/0/21, standard caster fare.

    For Runes, I run
    9x Greater Mark of Insight
    9x Greater Seal of Clarity
    9x Greater Glyph of Warding OR Greater Glyph of Focus
    3x Greater Quintessence of Fortitude

    Once again, pretty standard for casters.

  • Summoner Abilities

    I'm pretty set with what a Swain player should pick for Summoner Spells.

    Ignite This is a must. Ignite meshes with Tormet very well and will help you melt squishies. Also handy for gimping Mundo and other Swains.
    Flash OR Ghost Swain needs some mobility, as he has none himself. While Ignite helps you kill stuff, Flash or Ghost lets you do it with impunity. Both work, so it's up to personal preference.

    Other Summoner Spells

    Exhaust Probably your best bet if you somehow hate both Flash and Ghost with a passion. The reason I don't use Exhaust is because it only affects one target, and it's not you. Swain is a caster that likes to get in the thick of things then jump out before he gets nuked to oblivion, and stopping one dude just won't cut it.

    Cleanse OK. You un-CC'd yourself. Great. Too bad you're still in the middle of the enemy team with no efficient way of getting out.

    Teleport Serviceable if your team is going for a push oriented strategy, but even then I'd rather have Ghost.

    Clarity Swain's passive doesn't take that long to refill mana. Unnecessary.

    Clairvoyance I honestly love Clairvoyance, but Swain has no room for it. Use Nevermore to pseudo-scout bushes instead.

    Smite You shouldn't be jungling, and you farm decently well...Although it does get boosted by Torment if you decide to troll with jungle Swain (please don't)

    [spell=Rally], Heal, Revive, [spell=Fortify] Just...No

  • Skilling Order

    Start off with Nevermove and Decrepify to get your CC up and running as soon as possible. The order you get them in isn't too important. You want to max Torment first because Torment is your best skill. By "best skill," I mean that Torment's damage booster increases with rank. Therefore, leveling Torment is like leveling all of your spells at the same time. How many other champs can do that?

    After Torment, max Nevermove. Nevermove is the spell you should be using the most often, and the CDR you get from putting ranks in it is nothing short of amazing.

    Of course, get your ult whenever it's available.

  • Items

    Since the Doran items have been changed, I'll offer a few options to start off with now. You can start with Doran's Ring, Dorans Shield, or boots+3 health pots. I suggest trying all 3 before deciding on which one you like best ;)

    On your first trip back, aim for a fresh set of Sorcerer's Shoes or Mercury's Treads. However, if you can afford Boots of Speed and Giant's Belt or Catalyst the Protector, buy those instead.
    After boots, build either [item=Rylai's Scepter] or Rod of Ages. Rylai's is my personal choice, while Rod of Ages is a great pick if you're having mana problems. This is your core.

    From here on, you should build situationally.

    If you had a good early game, and want to get some snowball action going >:D
    Deathfire Grasp is an amazing. Having another damaging spell (Torment is happy) is great. Just be sure to remember the active, or it's a waste.
    Rabadon's Deathcap...It gives over 200 AP on it's own, Hot Damn! This should be your first non-core AP item.
    Abyssal Scepter reduces enemy magic resist while boosting your own. Good when the other casters start catching up.
    Lich Bane is a "this game is taking forever" item. Get it as a last item to help knock down buildings better.
    Void Staff is a must if your enemies start stacking MR. If you do get this, don't bother with Abyssal Scepter due to how penetration is applied.
    [item=Rylai's Scepter] or Rod of Ages, whichever you didn't get first. Extra AP and extra survivability make these viable choices for nearly any situation. Watch out for % based damage though.

    Another caster is getting his/her own snowball on -_-
    Spirit Visage The extra healing works with your ult. Need I say more?
    Abyssal Scepter should be gotten much sooner than if you're doing well.
    Banshee's Veil is a great magic defense item. Nothing is wasted here.
    Guardian Angel provides both Armor and Magic Resist. The passive helps sometimes, but don't count on it.
    [item=Rylai's Scepter] or Rod of Ages see above.

    Their physical carry frightens me T.T
    Zhonya's Hourglass is the new go-to Armor item for Swain. 50 armor + 100(!) AP + health reset button = win.
    Frozen Heart gives armor, mana, and the ever loved CDR. A great armor item to get.
    Guardian Angel see above.
    Thornmail BREAK YOURSELVES ON ME FOOLS! Thornmail can exert enough damage for you to actually out heal a carry. Only works in a small fight setting near minions though, it's just a crapload of armor in teamfights (which is still good, mind you).
    [item=Rylai's Scepter] or Rod of Ages see above.

  • Sample Builds: AP Swain

    Don't be fooled by the name, Swain should always be built tanky. AP Swain is "my bird is no longer hungry because I got fed" Swain. The focus here is to pump out as much damage as possible so you can maybe carry your team to victory.

    Sorcerer's Shoes
    [item=Rylai's Scepter]
    Deathfire Grasp
    Rabadon's Deathcap
    Zhonya's Hourglass
    Abyssal Scepter

    Generally, you want your build order to go: core->Deathfire Grasp->Rabadon's Deathcap->defense items with some offensive stats, such as Abyssal Scepter or Zhonya's Hourglass. You could also build a Rod of Ages after Deathfire Grasp if you feel you need more health. You will probably be focused with this build, so be cautious about roaming alone.

  • Sample Builds: Support Swain


    I know what you're thinking, "WTF this item build is all over the place. Swain isn't support ffs!!!!" Hear me out. Swain has a great supportive CC spell in Nevermore, and Laserbird is helpful too. If we stack auras, Swain can become a serviceable CC/debuff mage with a dash of tank. Items like Abyssal Scepter and Will of the Ancients make it easier to take down the enemy team before your CC wears off while items like Aegis of the Legion, Frozen Heart, and Shurelya's Reverie make it more difficult to take down your team in turn. Although you won't be carrying the team yourself, you make the job a heck of a lot easier for that Vlad who crushed mid.

    You might also consider changing your skill build to R>W>Q>E or R>Q>W>E when deciding to go Support Swain, since damage is not your focus.

  • Sample Builds: Tank Swain

    Swain was not designed to be a maintank, but he can act as one in a pinch. If your team needs a tank, do not pick Swain to be that tank. On the other hand, Swain can be a good secondary tank if you feel your team needs it.


    Mercury's Treads
    Rod of Ages
    Aegis of the Legion
    Guardian Angel
    Zhonya's Hourglass
    Abyssal Scepter
    Heavy Magic
    Heavy Physical
    Sorcerer's Shoes
    [item=Rylai's Scepter]
    Aegis of the Legion
    Zhonya's Hourglass
    Frozen Heart

    Building tank is all about building to counter the enemy team. Look at their items, and especially look at your death recap whenever you die. Pick items that will help defend against the type of damage that does the most to you. As tank Swain, you might actually want to hold off on using Nevermore and waiting to drop it in the middle of the teamfight instead of at the beginning.

  • Early Game

    From my experiences, Swain can handle any kind of lane, be it 2v2, 1v1, or even 1v2. For best results, you want to be able to constantly shift between passively last-hitting, actively hiding from harassment, and going on the offense. Another thing to note is that if you have a jungler, the second solo lane should be top so that bot has better dragon control.

  • 1v1 (mid or top)

    First off is solo mid. As a player, I don't like going mid and I'm super great when I do go mid. However, Swain can really put the hurt on a lot of mid champs. From the start, hang back and last hit. Only use Nevermove if the opposing mid takes the offensive. At level 2, make some expeditionary pokes with Nevermove to figure out how your opponent will react. Once you hit level 3, the real harass begins. Your basic combo is:
    Nevermove-> Torment+ Decrepify
    Remember this combo, it's your bread and butter. You lock the enemy in place with Nevermove, then drop Torment and Decrepify on his/her head then back off and return to last hitting. Most squishy mids will have around 1/4 to 1/3 of their health eaten by this combo. Add Ignite if you're sure it can net you a kill.
    If you haven't been dominated by level 6, look for overextending enemies and gank dem sidelanes.

    1v1 top (if both teams have a jungler) is similar to solo mid except that most solo top champs are a bit easier to handle and you can only really gank mid.

  • 1v2 (top or afk/leaver)

    1v2 top is all about tower hugging. Your goal is to survive until you hit level 6, then call for a gank from your jungler. You should only be using Nevermove unless they pseudo-dive you, in which case you should bring the pain. At level 6, your ult allows you to quickly recover from enemy fire. This lets you start harassing yourself. If your jungler is a responsible player, he'll respond favorably to the gank opportunity you present and a double kill is definitely feasible.

  • 2v2 (top or bot)

    2v2 is my favorite scenario, and Swain really shines here. I find that Swain is a lot like a caster version of Garen (I'll get to that soon enough), and he can really capitalize on early game dominance.

    Quick! Run to your lane and facecheck your bushes...NOT. Never Ever enter the brush at the start of the game without some way of checking it. Nevermove kinda works, but only if they happen to be standing at the edge of the bush when you cast. Instead, stand next to your tower and dance. His dance is silly enough to make many players dance alongside you and not become DEMACIAAAA bait. If your lane partner is stupid and goes to facecheck anyway, drop Nevermove in the bush before he/she gets there. If it's safe, follow him in. Otherwise, resume dancing.

    Once minions arrive on the scene and your enemies are outside the bushes, the fun begins. Remember when I said Swain is like Garen? This is because he bush camps well. You sit in the bush for a bit then
    Nevermove-> pop out -> Torment+ Decrepify -> back in the bush
    This allows Swain to take out large chunks of health from relative safety. Where Garen quickly regens health, Swain simply doesn't get hit thanks to having ranged harass.

    Not all bushes are equal though. If you're on the blue team, go bot if you can, top for purple team. The reason for this is because in those lanes, the bush closest to the enemy tower is at a chokepoint where it becomes impossible to approach the minions without getting in range of Nevermove. If your lane partner is smart, you can even deny exp!

    If you get some early kills and mid is tower hugging, let your partner beat on the tower while you take a short ganking trip mid. Even if you fail to kill mid, you probably forced them to retreat and/or provided your own mid an opportunity to port back to base while you hold the lane.

  • 2v1 (top or bot)

    Very similar to 2v2, but actively try to get your lane partner to help you deny exp. If you can keep their second solo underleveled, you basically ruin half the reason to take a jungler. Try to get a kill if you can, but don't get greedy. Remember that denying exp is the most important part. Besides, greedy is feedy.

  • Mid Game

    Mid game is where you capitalize on your strong early game. If your early game went well, and you have some kills and items, press your advantage. Search for enemies who are still wandering on their own and teach them how that's a bad idea. Push lanes, gank like a mofo. You want to end the game before the carries start getting farmed up if you can help it. Teamfights might occur now, and you want to be a presence. In a teamfight, pick a squishy and unload all of your spells on him/her. Turn on your ult and run in circles around random enemies, this can annoy them and get them to attack you instead of the Ashe behind you. When your spells go off cooldown, unload them on the next squishy and retreat to turn off your ult. Try to get some auto attacks in if you're being ignored. After a successful teamfight, PUSH! Push as if you're giving birth to a fully grown wooly mammoth. Too many times have I lost a game because my teammates thought that finishing Frozen Mallet is more important than knocking down an inhibitor turret. Don't be that teammate.

    If your early game was rough, build as a secondary tank/CC mage. Now, your job is to keep people in place so your team can clean their clocks. Most players will become a bit cocky when they have the advantage. Use that to engage them in small skirmishes where Swain is more useful. An important thing to note is that your team will probably lose an all out teamfight, so try to avoid those until you've beefed up a bit.

  • Late Game

    You don't really want the game to last this long because those AD carries are getting strong. Fast. If you've been doing well, consider Lich Bane to aid with building destruction. Otherwise, you want to bulk up your defenses so you can switch to more of a utility/tank role. At this point in the game, you are no longer the force to be reckoned with. It doesn't mean that you are suddenly useless, but your carries are now far more essential to your victory. Don't be afraid to throw away your own life if it will save your carry.

  • Bad Matchups

    This section is to identify the champions who will make your game a living hell. Be extra careful when playing against them. Instead of going over each champ individually, I'll bunch them up into a few key groups and address them from there.

    Long Range
    Examples: Lux, Caitlyn, Ashe
    These champs have either very long range spells or auto attacks, making closing in a risky move for you. Be prepared to take a few shots when you unload your combo on the ones with high attack range. The ones with high spell range will try to stay back out of danger, so landing Nevermore is even more important than before. Outside of the laning phase, your best bet is to get the jump on them by ganking from unusual angles to lessen the distance you have to close.

    Healing Debuffs
    Examples: Tristana, Katarina, Gangplank
    These champs are only mildly annoying before level 6. The problem is that they can neuter your ability to tank damage in fights. What you should do is either play like a glass cannon, or wait for them to blow their debuff on somebody else. Ignite and Executioner's Calling aren't champions themselves, but any champ can get them and fall in this category. Executioner's Calling is especially nasty, because it can be used on you every. Single. Fight. Never fight these people on your own.

    High Sustainability
    Examples: Mordekaiser, Taric, Nidalee
    These champs are a real pain to bring down in lane. Through the use of heavy shielding or frequent heals, they force you to work a lot harder to eat away at their health. Healers in particular have an interesting feature; Their health bar might say 700 or whatever, but it's actually infinity. Here's the cool part: once you hit level 6, you have infinity health too! The even cooler part? You also have infinity mana, they don't. Play smart, and it shouldn't be too difficult to outlast them.

    Long Duration CC
    Examples: Sion, Rammus, Kassadin
    These champs can prevent you from unleashing your inner badass. Although your health bar might cry a little, try to bait their CC and back off until it wears off before unloading your combo before they get back off cooldown. In the case of stunners, turn on your ult beforehand. It will still run through the stun and possibly keep you alive.

  • Psychological Warfare

    You wanna know a secret? Swain has a hidden fifth spell! It's called all-chat, and it's very fun to use even if it does not work on the enemy.

    Soviet Swain
    This strategy only works if you are using the Northernfront skin. Although it won't have many effects on the enemy team, it's very silly and rather funny to employ. NOTE: Soviet Swain is not meant to be offensive to Russians, communists, or any other group of people. It is all in good fun and I apologize for anybody offended as a result of my posting this.

    How it works is you talk like a stereotypical Russian from 50 years ago. Refer to people as "comrade," heck, use it to end your sentences (delayed is even better). Call out your opponents whenever they make a bad move, occasionally belting out insults like "Stupid Capitalist pigs." Comment on how your opponents keep dying to "Real Soviet damage!" If they have their own Swain (not Northernfront) be sure to belt out "Soviet Swain is the only Swain!" every time you kill him.

    Hopefully, this should enrage the enemy team and decrease their gameplay accordingly.

    Gank Indicator
    Whenever you're about to gank someone, say something along the lines of "My bird is hungry" or "Let's just morph and eat them." Sooner or later, the enemy will realize that whenever you say one of those lines, a gank is incoming. What you can then do later on is randomly say your gank phrase when you're not actually going to gank. Some people will actually react and retreat, giving you a free Fortify.

    Another opponent, another disappointment
    Only use if you're doing very well. Taunt you enemy whenever they fail to do something to you. Failgank? "You do not mess with Swain." (increase the intensity every time you reverse a gank without getting killed) Juked an enemy? "I'm five steps ahead of you" (even better if you saved an ally in the process). Things like that are sure to make you a prime target from miffed opponents, allowing your team to work magic on them without fear of retaliation.

    Da Boids
    This doesn't actually do much, but it's absolutely hilarious. You need a Fiddlesticks and an Anivia on Vent with you to pull this off. What happens is you 3 go to gank some guy. Fiddle ults over a wall while you (in ult form) and Anivia flash over the same wall while spamming "CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW CAW" in all-chat. Almost guaranteed to produce lulz.

  • Post Game

    When the Nexus is destroyed, dancing is always the best response. Be a good sport whether you won or lost, and any trolling should be friendly banter. Now hit those queues, because your destination is absolute!

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Submitted by berzerk_dragon

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