Swain Build Guide by Khazem
This build has been archived and is for historical display only.
PLEASE NOTE: This build has been archived by the author. They are no longer supporting nor updating this build and it may have become outdated. As such, voting and commenting have been disabled and it no longer appears in regular search results.
We recommend you take a look at this author's other builds.
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Hello and welcome to my Swain guide.
Swain is a very underrated and underused champion, but still extremely powerful in the right hands. He shines against melee heavy team comps which are in fact pretty common these days. He is often played in the mid lane against other AP carries, but I believe his full potential lies in the top lane, against the melee champions.
In this guide I will try and explain to you how to play and build Swain for the solo top lane.
Pros / Cons
+ High lane sustainability with his passive and ultimate
+ Damage over time spells that do way more damage than people usually expect
+ High sustained damage
+ Powerful AoE snare that deals a lot of damage as well
+ Can be built fairly tanky and still do good damage
+ Has an awesome bird
- High mana costs, is quite dependant on blue buff to reach his max potential
- Relies on hitting Nevermove to properly do damage to an opponent
- Relies on hitting [[nevermove to escape from bad situations
- Unlike most mages, Swain has no real burst damage
- Vulnerable to Ignite because of his Ravenous Flock
- Very squishy early game for a solo top laner
Main Summoner Spells
Adds to your damage overall and greatly increases your killing potential. You want this if you want to net kills in the laning phase.
A must have on a champion like Swain. While he's not the most squishy mage, he's still a mage which does mean he is also squishy. This extra escape ability is very much needed to get out of bad spots. Can also be used agressively to land another spell to get a kill.
Other Good Choises
Good to pick up if noone else is going to. Swain is a mage who has to jump right in the middle of fights to do his thing, meaning you'll be well within range to Exhaust targets worth Exhausting.
As previously mentioned, Swain is very vulnerable to Ignite. Grabbing Cleanse can fix this problem, as well as giving you the ability to remove other nasty spells.
Viable But Not Recommended
Since the buff to summoner Heal it's actually useful for some champions. It can be useful on Swain to increase his survivability since he does put himself in a dangerous position in teamfights.
Since you're going to the top lane, Teleport can be useful to help out your team and have a good global presence. This will make you quite significantly weaker in the actual laning phase however as you have low killing potential.
There are a few different setups you can use on Swain, but I prefer the offensive setup as Swain is an AP carry and your goal is ultimately to do damage.
||Tier 1 - I grab 3 points in
over points in
because the 4 extra AP really isn't worth it. 3 AD is useful for better last hitting or even harassing with auto attacks even as a mage.
Tier 2 - 4 points in Sorcery cause we want to get down to the magic penetration
Tier 3 - Arcane Knowledge and 3 points in Havoc cause it's the only mastery that actually does anything for Swain in that tier.
Tier 4 - 4 points in Blast for some more scaling AP to make you stronger late game.
Tier 5 - 4 points in Archmage , scales well into late game as well.
Tier 6 - Executioner , useful for finishing people off and generally helps you net kills.
||Tier 1 -
mainly to go further down the tree for mana regen. The extra mana is always useful too.
because the reduced cooldown on Flash is pretty good.
Tier 2 - Meditation to help Swain with his early game mana issues, rest of the points in Swiftness because Swain isn't the fastest champion and any kind of movement speed helps a lot, especially for landing his Nevermove.
There are the runes I choose from for Swain. If you're unsure of what to pick or only just starting Swain, I would suggest a pretty standard page that looks something like this.
- Greater Mark of Magic Penetration: The only marks you'll really need for a mage, magic penetration is a must.
- greater seal of replenishment: Helps Swain out with his early game mana problems. I prefer these over scaling mana regen because lategame you'll usually have blue buff and your mana issues won't be quite as bad.
- Greater Seal of Scaling Mana Regeneration: You'll often find yourself in a team where your AP mid might need blue buff more than you do, or you want to be less reliant on it. In that case these will help you a lot.
- Greater Seal of Armor: In some cases you will need these to help you survive early game. You're going top lane so armor is always very good.
- Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power: Scaling AP, pretty self explanatory. More AP is good.
- Greater Glyph of Magic Resist: Not listed above cause you'll rarely ever need them, but if you are facing someone like Ryze, even though they aren't needed they are useful.
- Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed: Personally my favorites on Swain. His movement speed is low and since most of his damage potential relies on hitting Nevermove, these help a lot. Also makes for safer top laning.
- Greater Quintessence of Ability Power: Also pretty self explanatory. Gives you a nice AP boost, good on any mage.
Carrion Renewal: Passive: Whenever Swain kills an enemy unit, he restores 9 (+1 per level) mana.
Useful passive that helps Swain's early game mana trouble.
Decrepify (Q): Swain sets his raven to cripple an enemy. Over the next three seconds, the target takes 25/40/55/70/85 (+30% AP) damage (per second) over time and is slowed for 20/23/26/29/32%.
Cooldown: 8 seconds
Cost: 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 100 mana
Leash Range: 900 (estimate)
Send out your bird to lazer people. Has a very nice slow to keep your targets within range of your Ravenous Flock.
Nevermove (W): Swain marks a target area. After a short delay, mighty talons grab hold of enemy units dealing 80/120/160/200/240 (+70% AP) damage and rooting them.
Cooldown: 18 / 16 / 14 / 12 / 10 seconds
Cost: 80 / 90 / 100 / 110 / 120 mana
Swain's AoE root. You need to land this skill in order to get kills but it does take some practise (much like Cho'Gath's Rupture).
Torment (E): Swain afflicts his target, dealing 75/115/155/195/235 (+80% AP) damage to them over time and causing them to take 8/11/14/17/20% increased damage from Swain's attacks for 4 seconds.
Cooldown: 10 seconds
Cost: 65 / 70 / 75 / 80 / 85 mana
Swain's bread and butter spell. Deals a lot of damage and increases the damage your target takes from your other abilities while it's active.
- Use this as your main harassing spell.
- In a combo, use this after you've landed a Nevermove. While it does increase the damage of your Nevermove if you cast it first, people will likely not stay in your range when you do Torment them.
- Torment also increases your auto attack damage on your target. When using Torment to harass, it can be useful to auto attack your target once or twice for a little extra harass.
Ravenous Flock (R): Toggle: Swain transforms into the form of a raven, during this time up to 3 lesser ravens strike out at nearby enemies dealing 50/75/90 (+20% AP) damage each second, one raven per enemy and prioritizing champions. Swain is healed for 75% of damage dealt versus champions, and 25% versus minions.
Cooldown: 10 seconds
Initial Cost: 25 mana
Upkeep Cost: 5 / 7 / 9 additional mana each second
Great ultimate. This spell offers you endless lane sustainability if you use it correctly while dealing a lot of damage as well. This is what makes Swain such a tanky mage but at the same time makes him extra vulnerable to Ignite.
- Use it wisely as it does have a 10 second cooldown. Using it early means you'll waste a lot of mana and you might have to deactivate it when you need it. Use it too late and you might just die.
- Never try and go into a fight when this spell is on cooldown. Swain relies on it too hard for both damage and survivabilty
- Always make sure to carefully watch your mana bar so you don't accidently run out of mana using this, as it consumes a ton of mana.
This is the general skill sequence you want to follow, a few notes on this.
- What skill you put your first point in depends on the situation. For a level one fight, or if there's a very realistic early jungle threat, you should put your first point in Nevermove, else put it in Torment to start harassing right away.
- When you get your first point in Decrepify is also entirely up to how the game goes. If you feel you need the early slow sooner than level 4, get it sooner.
- The general skilling priority should be: Ravenous Flock - Torment - Nevermove - Decrepify
There are the items you should almost always get. They give you some great damage and surivivability. The 2 remaining items will be different every game but here's some examples.
Heavy Damage Build
Balanced Tanky AP Build
Against Heavy AD
Against Heavy AP
Boots of Speed
The item you want to start with 90% of the games. Gives you some much needed movement speed to escape from early threats and allows you to buy 3 Health Potions for early lane sustain.
While you're at it you can also get another one to further increase your early game strength if needed. Don't get more than 2 of these however.
While you don't want to start with one, getting it early is very useful for some mana regen/AP/health to make your early game stronger.
Rod of Ages
This should be your first finished item. Offers you great sustain with an early catalyst the protector, gives you a good AP boost and makes you pretty tanky in the process.
The best item to get for more damage. Gives you a huge AP boost and will significantly increase your damage overall. Get this when you feel you really need the damage.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Very good item that makes you a whole lot harder to deal with. Gives you a very nice health boost to be more durable and the slow actually procs off of Ravenous Flock.
Has a very nice aura that aplies to everyone around Swain and seeing how you're going to be in the middle of a fight very often, this item makes perfect sense on Swain.
Will of the Ancients
Gives you even more healing than you already have. Combine this with some tanky items and you're incredibly hard to take down.
A decent item for Swain, mainly because the damage amplifier from Torment works with items like this. Good if you want some burst.
Good item to elminiate any mana issues you might have late game. Make sure if you get this to build the tear of the godess early in the game so you can stack it properly.
If the enemy team stacks a lot of magic resistance, get one of these.
Very good on Swain because of how close he will be to the enemy team. The armor makes him more durable and the aura will apply to everyone around him.
A lot of games you'll find yourself in need of this item. Removes every debuff including Ignite.
If you're being focused very hard and dying too quick, this is a great choice. If you're getting focused too hard just activate this and be invulnerable for a few seconds while your ultimate is still active.
Increases your healing done, increases your survivability and gives you some cooldown reduction. Another good choise for a defensive item.
Good to get against very bursty long cooldown AP champions, such as Sion. The health and mana boost is a nice bonus.
Another good item if you're getting focused hard. Eat all the damage and cooldowns, die, revive, kill everyone!
This item actually works suprisingly well. Combined with a fully stacked Rod of Ages and a Rylai's Crystal Scepter you will have a ton of health and will be very hard to kill.
Force of Nature
Good against AP heavy comps. Force of Nature is a very good and useful defensive item overall. The movement speed boost is also great on Swain.
Standard choice for most mages, Swain is no different. Magic penetration is a very important stat so these will be the most common choice.
If you're having trouble with incoming CC, these will do a lot for you. Only get these when the CC is actually stopping you from being useful to your team.
Against auto attack heavy comps. It might look weird to get these on a mage, but since Swain has to put himself in a dangerous position to do damage, you should do whatever you can to take less damage if you're dying too fast.
Gameplay - Laning Phase
First of all, make sure you're actually laning top. A lot of people will naturally assume Swain goes mid because he's a mage so make sure to say something about that in the champion select chat.
When the game starts, find out who you're laning against and buy your starting item. (this should always be Boots of Speed really) Don't level a skill yet as there might be an invasion or an early gank in which case you'll need Nevermove. When you're certain the early threat is over, you can put that point in torent.
Last hit to the best of your ability and harass your opponent with Torment whenever possible. As long as you're just using Torment and last hitting properly you should not have any mana issues.
Go back to buy when your lane is pushed up and you have enough gold for a Doran's Ring and a sight ward. If you know where the enemy jungler is, you can stay longer but beware of the fact that you are squishy early game and very easy to gank.
(Splitting up massive wall of text with a picture of Swainpony cause I can)
Uh where was I... Oh right, your next buy should be another Doran's Ring and a Ruby Crystal or Sapphire Crystal (if you need more survivabilty go ruby, if you need mana go sapphire) OR if you managed to stay long enough, buy a catalyst the protector right away. In this case you can skip the second Doran's Ring. The sooner you get Rod of Ages, the better.
When you hit level 6 you can start going for kills. Harass your opponent down with Torment and when he's getting to around half health, try and hit a Nevermove. If you land it, immediatly follow up with a Torment as you're moving next to your target and a Decrepify -> Ravenous Flock -> Ignite. All of this should happen in an instant and if you've done it right, even if your opponent Flashes away, they should die. If not, don't be afraid to use Flash offensively to land that kill. (make sure you know where the enemy jungler is when you do this though)
Swain is also a pretty safe towerdiver. Just make sure you KNOW you're getting the kill and you can get away with it.
If you're losing the lane and having trouble, just stay back and farm using your long range abilities. They shouldn't be able to towerdive you if you stay away from damage in lane as long as you have mana for Ravenous Flock and Nevermove.
Gameplay - Teamfights
Swain, being as tanky as he is, can actually initiate fights well. His Nevermove is a perfect tool for that. If you can land it on a key target, great. If you can land it on multiple targets, even better.
When you land a Nevermove, first of all make sure your team is with you and able to follow up. If they do, quickly move in while activating Ravenous Flock and find the target you want to kill and DoT them with Torment and Decrepify. Make sure you're close to the target you're using Decrepify on for its full effect.
Carefully watch your health and mana bars and act accordingly. If you can avoid dying by means of a Flash, Quicksilver Sash or Zhonya's Hourglass make sure to activate them in time. Your goal is to absorb as much damage as possible while doing as much damage to everyone as possible, though do prioritize your targets accordingly. (don't just spread your damage around like a madman, your Ravenous Flock deals enough AoE damage. Use your other skills to focus down a key target)
When your team gets engaged on, try and position yourself so that you can land Nevermove on a squishy target, preferably the ranged AD carry and when you do, move in with Ravenous Flock. Mid/Late game you should be able to kill squishy targets very quickly and landing a Nevermove on the right target can take them out of the fight instantly.
Use your Ignite on your main focus target to negate any incoming healing.
Gameplay - Laners to watch out for
As most of Swain's matchups are rather straightforward and easy, there are a few I'd like to mention.
||space||This is likely your hardest match-up for top lane. This guy is an absolute pain in the ***. The range on his ghosts is big enough to hit you when you're going in from last hits and eventually his damage will be higher than you can heal up with Ravenous Flock. He also has enough sustainability to survive your damage. You have a few options here. You ask your jungler for blue buff so you can heal with Ravenous Flock much more or you ask your mid lane to switch lanes. If Yorick switches with you, while he will still be annoying, you can't really die to him mid and you should be able to farm properly.|
Trickier than he appears. Early game he won't be a problem and you'll push him over like a little girl, maybe even get a kill or two, but as he levels up and gets more magic resistance and sustainability, he becomes very hard to deal with. He can actually run up to you and Hungering Strike for a lot of damage to harass you down. Make sure to keep yourself high on health at all times and don't try and harass him. He will just sustain it back up.
||space||A mage counter in general and no different to Swain. His sustained damage is more than you can heal, especially if he has Ignite and his early game is very scary. Stay away from him when he comes in for damage and make sure to avoid getting hit by his Rune Prison. Do not try and trade with him even if you land a Nevermove because he can also sustain the damage back up with his ultimate while killing you. The best way to deal with him is to avoid fighting him, getting Mercury's Treads and farm up from a distance. If you're careful enough and use your Ravenous Flock to heal up (when Ryze isn't in range for his damage) you shouldn't really die in this lane. Movement speed (quintessences/mastery/boots) help a lot against this guy.|
Closing Comments & Game Scores
This is the end of my Swain guide. I hope to see more Swains in the top lane because he really is a good counter to melee teams and he's really underused. Please feel free to leave any feedback in the comment section, I will reply to everyone.
To end off, here's a few recent scores of me playing solo top Swain, just so you know this build works. If you used this build and had a good game, feel free to post the pictures in the comments and I will feature them here.
- Thanks to jhoijhoi's guide to making a guide and Searz's guide template for all the awesome templates which I used for this guide.