Swain Build Guide by MasterCaster

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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.

League of Legends Build Guide Author MasterCaster

Swain: His Bird is Hungry

MasterCaster Last updated on October 10, 2011
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Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

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.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 9

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 0

Expanded Mind
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 21

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Hey guys. This is my first build to my favorite hero in the League of Legends, Swain. Why Swain? Because Swain is one tough, angry killer. He has amazing potential, and is terribly underused by the general populace in LoL. And he has a very aggresive and fun play style, in which he morphs and eats people. I want to note before I get into the meat of this and say this is all my personal opinion. I will offer variations, and comment on alternatives. However, I have had amazing success within the first few weeks of playing this game, and Swain has done that for me. Also, as my first build, this may lack pictures and other niceties, but I assure you that the information you will need is all here, and if you need a picture you can always open a tab and use your interwebs. :D

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This is very basic. Like, VERY BASIC. I'm not even going to go into the masteries, because everyone uses 9-0-21, even if you do have something a little different on the untility chart. I will talk briefly about the runes.

Marks of Insight: Mpen ftw. You can do ap for your marks... but I believe that this is a better route, because the ap you would get in exchange is not really worth it for the mpen.

Seals of Clarity: Again, straightforward caster material. If you want to get Seals of Replenishment instead, more power to you. I take the rune that builds over time just because you're not going to have tons of mana issues at level 1.

Glyph of Force: AP is what Swain boils down to. Basically all of your items are ap, and so are these runes. The glyphs give the best ap, so I went with them. Again, I went with the rune that builds over time, but Glyphs of Potency are also viable.

Quintessence of Potency: These, unlike my seals and glyphs, do not build over time. However, this nuke in ap is hard enough to where I looked and said yes. The Quints of Force stack over time, so matter of preference there. I have seen builds using things like Quints of Fortitude and other defensive runes. I do not approve, and I'll explain exactly why in the skills section, but I will say now that more ap will do more for you than the defense. Again, matter of preference.

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The Bird is the Word: Swain's Skills

As Swain, you will find you have very nice cc, and an excellent ultimate. Let's get started.

Carrion Renewal- A simple yet effective passive. Mana replenishment which is great at any stage of the game, but really shines early because of the great longevity it gives you in lane.

Decrepify- This is your slow tether (aka Lazer Bird). Very useful. I do not invest heavily in it at the beginning. Most guides will max this second, but I max it last. Why? The damgage is not awesome, and the slow does not stack well. Maxing Nevermore second does more damage and scales very well with your ap. But, if the extra slow is important to you, then by all means go ahead. This move is great for getting away(slow the chaser) or chasing(slowing the opponent) and the cooldown is excellent.

Nevermore- (Nevermove is the title, but I thought it was nevermore because of the raven theme. Nevermore is a better name. Deal.) This will scare your opponents. The range, as you will read in every guide about Swain, is remarkable. Remember the midpoint of the circle is the max reach, not the edge. It does great damage, and is a 2 second root from the get go. Great for initiating ganks, stopping your chasers, or saving an ally whos being chased. Using this power well determines how good you are as Swain, without a doubt.

Torment- Always max this first. This is your damage dealer, and has one of the best ap scales and added effects. With this and ignite, people will take TONS of damage. You're combos will become really powerful. Also, your ultimate does extra damage based off this. Oh. that reminds me. The ulitmate...

Ravenous Flock- Hey remember that crippled elderly fellow that was standing there? He's a giant bird demon now. Amazing, unique ultimate, which looks epic in game. But thats nothing compared to what it does. It sends out three ravens once each second that damage enemies and heal you for a percentage. This is why ap is great for survivability on Swain(the explanation for ap runes instead of defensive runes). As Swain you already have a ton of health(for a mage), so this makes you REALLY had to kill without being hit with some heavy nukes or lots of cc. This ability, plus the fact you are a mage, makes ap your most important feature. The downside is that is sucks mana, so you will need blue buff or some hefty mana regen to use it alot, but its a toggle as well. Versatile, great for chasing(you do not stop for auto-attacks) or just surviving.

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Summoner Spells

Ignite and flash is what I use. I have used it since I hit level 12 and I have never looked back. However, I will go through everything, in no particular order, just to give options and admonitions.

Heal- Do not use this.
Revive- Do not use this either.
Exhaust- Great for the chase, but you have a slow and a snare at your disposal. I do not recommend.
Smite- Please don't jungle. Just... don't do it.
Ghost- Very versatile spell. Great for chase, escape, interception, or even getting to the big battle on time. You do have a snare and a slow for cc, so there are better options. However, I would not call this unreasonable as a choice. If you really want it, change your mastery tree to reflect it(minus 1 from good hands).
Teleport- Until I got flash, I carried this. Teleport just has nice perks. Swain is slow as a mage, so it really helps your mobility. You have better options, but I don't frown upon it if this is what you love.
Cleanse- I will frown upon this one. You have great choices with summoner spells, and this just isn't one of them. CC will not be a major issue for you with your ult on, because you will be draining health while stunned from enemies whacking at you. There are just better options.
Fortify- I don't think you're support. Let me check... no, your'e not support. Moving on.
Clarity- Not great. You do suck mana, but you need to grab items or blue buff to deal with that. Nay.
Clairvoyance- I already checked and you're not support. Let's move on.
Ignite- Awesome. The damage off this will get you kills in a pinch, and continues being useful all game long. The synergy with torment is amazing, because the damgae buff does wonders to the ignite to equal massive dot. I use this to walk up to someone, spam spells, and walk off to have a kill 3 seconds after the fact.
Flash- Best spell in the game. There's a reason why you get it last. Great for... everything really. Staple for most characters in the game, and that's true here as well.

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Item Build

The item build listed is a fairly generic list of what I get most games. It is NOT what you should do every game. Item builds are meant to be fluid, and reactive. Most builds offer options, but I don't think anyone can emphasize enough how a build should not be followed to the letter. It's a guideline moreso than actual rules. So let me go in detail about what one should do.

Ability Tome+Health pot- I saw this opening, tried it, and never change it up. Great caster opening. Other viable options are boots+3 health pots or doran's ring. The extra start ap, however, will get you early kills. Preference, as always. Early mana(mekai, mana stone) are not needed because of your passive.

Your catalyst the protector should always be your first aim upon going back, if not the wand as well. I opt for later boots because you want to rush Rod of Ages so that it can become a better item quicker. In a good game, with an early kill or just proper farming, I get my Rod at around 20(usually before). The alternative to this is getting a mejai's out of your ability tome. DISCLAIMER. Only do this if you have a fairly good sense of the direction of the game and youve practiced with the rod build to the point you are good. Mejai's is a big gameble that can end badly. After mejais, however I would still get rod just because it is an amazing item which I would recommend for every caster.

The next item I get usually addresses mana regen. Archangel's Staff and Morello's Evil Tome address this issue. Morello's gives you some really nice cdr, which isn't all that important on Swain, but also has good ap, the main focus of your character. Archangel's has better mana regen, but lower ap. However, like ROTA, Archangel's builds into something better over time, and in a longer game is definitely worth it. Note that the ability tome goes into Morello, so the Morello is also the cheaper option.

From this point, the build becomes very fluid and reactive, but I will say that all of your items should come from the ap section. Rabadon's is usually a must bc of the great ap boost, yet the order in the build depends on how well you are doing(if you are rolling in cash, get this earlier). I listed zhonyas and abyssal because they will get you the armor and magic resistance to grant extra survivability. The order of those depends on which one of their characters is smacking you hardest. Other options include Deathfire Grasp and the Void Staff, for extra nuke(deathfire gets a bonus from torment) and mana regen or mpen, respectively. Will of the Ancients grants extra spell vamp, but I do not like this item just because I believe the other ability power items offer more. One final option is Rylai's. The deal with Ryalai's is that the 35% slow effects all targets of Ravenous Flock. That along with 80 ap makes an excellent. Your item choice should be greatly influenced by the flow of battle, so remember to look at your enemies items.

Finally if you get to this point, grab the elixers and rampage across the map. :D

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Early Game

Realistically, Swain is a superb mid and you should take mid 9/10 times. That having been said, Swain despises mid against certain people(vlad, we all hate you). So it should also be pointed out that you are a very effective laner. Your early game is just very strong, with great sustain in Carrion Renewal. I'm going to address mid and lane in this section.


Your mid is powerful because of nevermore. The range allows you to really effectively harass the opponent, by snaring then running up to perform a nevermore and a decrepify. By level 6, you can take a lot of health away by doing this and adding ravenous flock in. Very simple, very effective. After using your snare a couple times, the enemy is also going to back off when you move forward at all(if they're smart), so you should be able to last hit without too much trouble, and the more you last hit the more mana you get.

The only problems in mid are problems for everyone. Vladimir in particular gives me trouble more than anyone, mainly because his sanguine pool allows him to escape your combos. You need to be very aggresive with vlad at the start, always shooting a torment when he comes in range. By level 6, if you are still only on par with him, ganks may be required as his hemoplague will devestate your healing abilities. For vlad, I would suggest a doran's ring at the start, simply to give you a stronger earlier game to cope. Kassadin also is a problem. His silence has good range and is annoying to deal with. Before level 6, your nevermore+torment combo will keep him at bay, but his riftwalk eventually makes that combo very hard to initiate. Be wary after this point.


Swain is great at immobilizing people, so most lanes should provide an oppurtunity for you to dominate with some help from your partner. Nevermore, torment, ignite will clean out a lot of health, and if your ally was doing something while you were in the process of this combo, you should get a kill. Decrepify is icing to this combo at early levels, and the slow is useful for chasing someone down. AT level 6, lane becomes awesome for you because you have 2 champions to drain instead of one, which means a lot of sustain. Remember to leave your ult on when chasing as the ravens will still hit, and can usually secure a kill if the person running had low health at the start of a chase. If your opponents bunch up, the aoe on nevermore becomes better, so look for oppurtunities to use that. Finally, when your ally is being chased, remember your nevermore and decrepify, and you can give them a strong chance to escape.

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Closing thoughts

So, this is my guide to Swain. There will be amendations in the future. Please remember this is my first build(I have no idea how to edit this thing), so don't bash me unless you really think I am a scrub(which I doubt you will). Helpful criticism is always appreciated and I thank you for any comments at all.