Build Guide by Ulfhednar

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.

League of Legends Build Guide Author Ulfhednar

Swain; The early bird

Ulfhednar Last updated on November 2, 2010
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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: 8

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 13

The early bird guts the worm

Just a cool note for the preface: Anyone watching the Leblanc spotlight will hear phreak make a little reference to our favorite birdman."We thought about going tanky originally with leblanc but we have swain for that."(paraphrased) Further justification for building swain the way this guide says! On to the nitty gritty

Alright time to set the record straight on the newest noxian, Swain, the master tactician. First and foremost, the champion spotlight for swain was outdated the day he was released. No fault on Phreak, they just changed how torment worked between when the spotlight was made and when the champ hit the store. The bursty, champ melting caster you saw in the spotlight is gone and trying to build swain the same way will have your team raging and your opponents fed. So here is how to play Swain, so you dominate your lane and dominate the mind of your opponents.
Swain is a powerful, team based caster. While a good choice for solo mid or a 1v2 lane, he really shines during team fights, and lets be honest, team fights are the crux of about 95% of a game. Being a caster, it automatically lets us know several things about swain. Even though most of his abilities are damage over time spells, or DoTs, his damage is still Burst. Secondly, since we wont be able to auto attack down an entire wave of creeps in three seconds or tear through the jungle, your laning phase, especially the act of last hitting, will determine how well you do thoughout the game. Fortunately, Swain's passive encourages last hitting, much the same was as siphon strike does for nasus.

As of October 19,2010 patch

* Decrepify
o Ability power ratio increased to 0.9 from 0.75
o Fixed a bug where Decrepify would slow through Highlander or Ragnarok
o Fixed a bug where the damage portion sometimes would not stop after leaving the area
* Nevermore ability power ratio increased to 0.7 from 0.5
* Torment damage increased to 75/115/155/195/235 from 72/110/148/186/224
* Torment ability power ratio increased to 0.8 from 0.6
* Carrion Renewal regen increased to 300% from 250%

What this means for us
First off, everyone of your abilites, except ultimate will hit harder and it will be easier to lane as long as you are skilled at last hitting.
What it means for the effectiveness of this guide
Increased the effectiveness by about 25%-20%. since all of his abilities scale better with AP and since torment now just does more damage regardless of AP, building a tankier setup such as we do here, without relying on massive ap stacking, works even better,as all of our damage tools are enhanced. this definitely makes a glass cannon build more viable, but the patch didnt alter our ultimate at all. So now swain is a scarier damage dealer, making him more likely to get focused, which means we better be tough if we want to stay in the mix

I wont list the spell tool tips, because i feel they do a fair job of that numerous other places, so ill just add a few key points on each ability

Passive: Carrion Renewal
~last hitting either a mob or champ is going to help keep your mana up, and as Swain can be mana intensive at times, starting a fight with more mana is always a plus. this passive, combined with strength of spirit mastery, a health potion and dorans ring, allows you to lane without recalling til you want to.

~this ability is on a tether, meaning where you activate the ability( your location not your targets) is where the tether is centered and if your target runs out of range before the spell finishes, he wont take the full damage.
~Positioning is key for this ability. the tether mechanic can be both a strong point and a weakness depending on your usage. I recommend Shurelyias Zoning guide as the premise is almost the exact same as for a tethered ability. Basically, its a short duration, single target turret a la heimerdinger. you want to drop this ability either close to or slightly behind an enemy. use it to discourage retreating. if you place it behind someone, then they either have to run though it and take full damage, or run away from it and move farther from their own safety zones.

W: Nevermore
~Has a short delay before taking effect, and is extremely easy to see while laning. In the hustle and bustle of team fights, its easily ignored and so much easier to land.
~As far as Swain has an initiator, this is it. Nothing seems to get your teammates moving more then seeing several opponents locked into place. try landing it for maximum effect in a group of enemies. the smart ones will move out, the dumb ones stick around and what do you get? a seperated team with several(hopefully) unable to escape for 2 seconds.
~ I personally get the one point early, as its the least effective spell for the laning phase, but it ends up being the most important spell for a teamfight.

E. Torment
~your most mana efficient means of damage the entire game. your other spells can be negated by enemies moving out of range, but once E is landed, they are gonna take the damage.Plus it has the bonus of increasing the damage you deal with all your abilities to that enemy by an amount scaling per ability level.
~generally your opener 1v1 or 1v2, in team fights you are going to want to drop it on the teams focused target to help guarantee the kill.

R. Ravenous Flock
`makes you the unstoppable laner, use it to keep your creep waves right outside the turret range and keep your health full.
~can be used similar to singeds poison trail, use it while being chased to turn the fight to your advantage as their health drops and yours rises.

Alright time to set the record straight on the newest noxian, Swain, the master tactician. First and foremost, the champion spotlight for swain was outdated the day he was released. No fault on Phreak, they just changed how torment worked between when the spotlight was made and when the champ hit the store. The bursty, champ melting caster you saw in the spotlight is gone and trying to build swain the same way will have your team raging and your opponents fed. So here is how to play Swain, so you dominate your lane and dominate the mind of your opponents.


After more specific mastery testing, i now recommend a 9/9/12 build or 9/12/9
(thanks to Areuready2die for the suggestion)
Make sure to pick up increased ap, cooldown reduction and 15% spell pen for both builds.
for the 9/9/12 build
take full armor and magic resist from tier 1 masteries, and 3/3 strength of spirit.

for the 9/12/9 build
take full magic resist, strength of spirit and dodge/nimbleness masteries

1/1 Improved Teleport or Ghost, whichever one you prefer, i personally use teleport, as it gets me to the spot im needed at most much quicker, and makes for easier laning phase

for the 9/9/12
take reduced time dead, increased exp and max out mana regen.

for the 9/12/9
take reduced time dead, increased xp and one point in neutral buff duration

Summoner Spells


Ghost is a fair replacement for teleport, use it if you find yourself overextended a lot or dying often, but once you get the hang of swain, you wont be dying much, so teleport becomes more useful.


Flat Health Quintessences
Magic Penetration Marks
Dodge Seals
Magic Resist per Level Glyphs

Item build

Sapphire Crystal and health potion x2
with strength of spirit, this gives you similar health regen to a doran's shield (thanks to tegea's ezreal guide for pointing this out!)

First trip back(once you have 595 or 945 gold)
Tear of the Goddess
Boots of Speed

Second trip back
Ninja Tabi
default for this build but if there is no scary melee carry, then go sorceror's or mercury treads if cc heavy) with runes and masteries, ninja tabi will bring you to 20%dodge
Negatron Cloak
Blasting Rod

from here on out, it really isnt predictable how much gold you will have when you are able to shop next but generally speaking

build negatron cloak and blasting rod into abyssal scepter next.

After increased testing, and reader suggestions, i only build abyssal scepter in certain situations this early on. If the enemy team is a magic heavy composition, or aoe based, abyssal is a great choice. also if they arent focusing on you, abyssal works great still as a damage oriented build choice as well. However, if they are a physical damage heavy team and you are getting focused, build a glacial shroud and finish your Arch Angel Staff earlier.(thanks to Thazdoom for pointing this out)

if the game is going your way, the next damage item you purchase should be a mejais
If the game is going poorly, finish off your arch angels staff next

once your archangel staff or mejai's is built the next item is Guardian Angel.
the reason for GA is this. with runes, masteries, and items, this will put you over 150 Armor, over130 magic resist, and 20% dodge. With defensive stats like these, your health will drop much slower, which means the ability of your ult to heal you in combat is drastically increased in effectiveness. Your Ap ratios arent that great, but if you arent getting hit super hard, the health piles up that much quicker

After GA, build what seems appropriate. if you haven't built a mejai's yet i recommend doing so now, as it will be easy to get stacks even if you only are getting assists.

What to do when a game just isn't going your way?
Having trouble farming due to lack of mias/constant ganks? Laning versus a duo that just makes your early and mid game hell? try these cheap alternatives that have everything you need to get back in the mix. Worried that they dont upgrade into a l33t item for endgame? well in this situation, you will be happy to make it into the endgame at all, and worst comes to worse, you can sell em and they will fund a good chunk of change towards your next phat lewt.

Spirit Visage is a great item to buy after you have your boots and tear. Hp,MR and once of the nicest passives you can buy for under 2k gold. Not only will it increase the effectiveness of your ults heal by 20%. but it will also reduce cooldowns by 12%. This baby has Swain written all over it. Grab this if you are having trouble getting enough for the Abyssal Scepter

Haunting Guise. Whats scarier then a giant crow man shooting more crows at you? the same crow man in a mask. This little item is a great pickup due to having both hp and Ap for a cheap price. not to forget it has the extra rare spell pen on it. With my personal great dislike for void staff, ill often pick one of these up towards then end of the game just for the spell penetration. with HG, sorceror's boots and Abyssal Scepter, thats a flat 60 spell pen towards an enemy, not taking into account the spell pen gained from marks and mastery. really, who would waste their money on a void staff after doing the math?

Alternate Early Rylai's Crystal Scepter Build.

After extended testing, im happy to bring you this build, with everyones favorite Swain item, rylai's crystal scepter.
Id recommend the 9/9/12 mastery path noted above for this build.

Amplifying tome + health potion
First Trip Back
Boots of Speed and Giants Belt if you can afford it, if not, grab boots, meki pendant and a ruby crystal.
Second Trip Back
Start/Finish Spirit Visage
Finish Rylais
Finish Boots
Zhonya's Ring (note, the reason i recommend Zhonyas Ring at this point is you are gonna be a squishy bird at this point with no armor built and minimal MR. use zhonya's active as soon as you start taking heavy damage, making sure your ult is active.)

Items to Raise your (late) Game Another Notch
How to Cinch your win

Getting massive amounts of stacks? Build yourself a Zhonyas Ring and laugh as the Golden Raven of Doom steals all their health.

Sick of the one or two people escaping at low health, and preventing your teams Ace? Build that rylais thing thats got everyone talking.

Have a massive mana pool so big you cant use it all quick enough? Make it useful with more Archangel Staff.

Facing a tank that just doesnt seem to go down? TIme to bring out the Deathfire grasp, remembering to use torment before its active

Wondering how to make your single target damage peak out? Buy a Lichbane and work those procs to your favorite jazzercise tunes. (caution. until you have over 200 AP, a lichbane proc will generally do less damage then a sheen proc. but at this point we should be upwards of 250 even if a death cost us some stacks.)

Skilling Order. To Level 6
Solo Lane, mid
Put your first point in torment and everytime the opposing mid is in range drop it on them,
Skills should be spent E,Q,W,E,E,R on the way to level six

Solo Lane,1v2
First point goes in Nevermove and second in Decrepify
Skills should proceed as W,Q,W,E,Q,R

Laning with a Partner
this is where it can really be diverse. Laning with a strong ranged champion and hungry for first blood? nevermove is your friend if you are laning with a twitch or mf or any skill shot champion.
Laning with a melee champ like garen or tryndamere? get decrepify first.
Not going for first blood? get torment and harass with it.

Tip for laning: until you get your tear of the goddess, only last hit with auto attack. afterwards, feel free to get a little spammy, just try to keep your mana above 75%.

Skilling Post Level 6
Generally speaking this is the rule of thumb to follow for picking a skill.
Is your damage low? champs getting away with little hp? Raise Torment
Find yourself in a lot of teamfights? Raise Nevermove
Getting targeted a lot? Raise Decrepify

and always raise your Ravenous Flock when you can.

Please leave feedback if you try this guide, whether positive or negative, as swain is still new and nothing is set in stone yet. However, please try to keep it all constructive, as the purpose of a guide is to help out others, and by being constructive you return the favor. Any recommendations will be taken into consideration and if i feel they fit, ill test them out and make changes accordingly. If there is enough desire for it, ill lengthen the guide and expand upon gameplay