Swain Build Guide by JAYZORZ
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.
Hi, Everybody! Jawzeyy here again.
This was a build I previously released, but realised it wasn't great so I archived it.
I have revamped it and I am deciding to post it because Swain is my favourite champion, particularly in story/looks. That been said, he is very strong in game and is quite often underrated in my opinion.
It is really long, and gives details about just about everything I can think of, both related to Swain and general mid laning. I suggest reading the guide as more of a learning platform, and using the cheatsheet just as a mini guide.
Firstly, I would like to say that this isn't the only way to play Swain.
Furthermore I will quote Pohl's Law "Nothing is so good that someone, somewhere, won't hate it."
With this, I am not saying my guide is perfect, rather, just saying that nothing is good enough for everyone, and you may disagree with parts, or think I should add 'x', I attempted to make this guide as general as neccessary and as specific as optimal, and I hope you enjoy it and learn from it.
Aim of Guide
The aim of this guide is to showcase my (many) way(s) to play Swain, but mainly focused on my standard way to play.
This guide not only showcases a strong build for Swain, but rather a build I use for many champions with a similar playstyle/similar strengths and weaknesses. (Namely Mana Hungry champs)
Pros + Cons
+ Durable for damage amount
+ Good sustain
+ Nice utility/CC
- Very mana hungry
- No hard escapes without Flash
- Slow autoattack animation
Below are the setups I would recommend you have, and the ability sequencences you should know. These aren't needed, but are my suggested pages.
Click here to go back to the contents page
The first step to success with any champion is getting a rune page you are comfortable with, and suits the champion, but also is based on your lane opponent.
Vsing AP mids
For Marks, Greater Mark of Magic Penetration allow your abilities to do more damage, and are rune efficient, I would take these against all lanes.
Because of how mana intensive Swain can be, and the fact you shouldn't need much armor to mitigate damage, Greater Seal of Mana Regeneration is a good choice.
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist offer the highest defenses,and these runes mitigate early game damage, making your lane much easier.
Greater Quintessence of Ability Power is a great choice for quintessences, and as such I recommend these.
Vsing AD mids
Again, Greater Mark of Magic Penetration is good.
Because you will take physical damage in lane (if not everywhere), this time you should conserve your mana and instead invest in Greater Seal of Armor
You could make up for this by foregoing MR and instead grabbing Greater Glyph of Ability Power, or Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power (probably better, equal by level 7)
Again, Greater Quintessence of Ability Power is a great choice.
A less optimal page, but a versatile page usable on numerous champions includes:
- Greater Mark of Magic Penetration
- Greater Seal of Armor
- Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
- Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
Masteries also depend on your lane opponent and your play style, but Swain is alot more versatile than most champions in many things, including masteries you can take.
Due to this, I will detail good single abilities, and good 'mastery compositions'
21-9-0: This is a very offensive page that allows you to trade well and deal a lot of damage.
21-0-9: This is the 'standard' mid lane page. Grants blue buff for longer, utility and damage.
9-21-0: A defensive page, mitigates damage you take whilst allowing you to still deal damage.
9-12-9: A defensive page that grants blue buff and mana, offers damage and durability.
9-0-21: A utility heavy page. Average damage, high utility but low durability. Not Recommended.
9-9-12: A defensive page, grants some durability and damage, whilst offering mana, blue buff and spell vamp.
Summoner's Wrath : Improves Ignite and Exhaust, amongst a few spells. This is a great mastery to take for 1 point, assuming you take Ignite or Exhaust.
Arcane Knowledge : Grants you some nice % magic penetration. Great for 9 points in the offense tree. I would suggest taking this in 100% of games that you are playing as an AP champ.
Hardiness / Resistance : Skill to advance to next tier. Take the one that will counter your lane opponent.
Veteran's Scars : Grants 30 health (more than a Greater Quintessence of Health), and is available on the 9th point, enabling another full tree, or a mix.
Summoner's Insight : Improving Flash is quite smart, especially for 1 point.
Meditation : Grants some nice mana regeneration. Also better than the speed in season 3 in my opinion.
Mastermind // Expanded Mind : Mastermind makes you be able to use your summoner spells more, and when you can apply Torment to Ignite to 'super-charge' it, this becomes a big deal// Expanded Mind adds some nice mana onto your mana pool, and synergises with Seraph's Embrace.
Runic Affinity : Blue buff is quite pivotal to Swain. If you have this, it wil be with you for longer and as such will benefit you more. Also available on the 9th point, meaning you can take this with a full tree, or a mix.
All of the '9' masteries ( Arcane Knowledge / Veteran's Scars / Runic Affinity ) are great on Swain, which is you can run a mix of masteries (such as 9/12/9 or 9/9/12), but it isn't neccessary.
I think that filling a tree (having 21) is overrated as a whole. I'm not saying its bad, I'm just saying that it isn't 'neccessary'.
In particular, Executioner because on Swain, you can use a 'super-charged' Ignite to kill them, and Executioner does NOT modify true damage. It is only really good for people that have a huge, non-true damage, finisher (such as Final Spark or Requiem)
Even then, bare in mind, to deal 30 extra damage (the same amount of health offered by Veteran's Scars you need to be doing 20*30=600 damage to gain 30 damage on this ability.
Suggested Summoner Spells
|Flash: A great utility spell for almost any situation: initiating, fleeing and chasing. I would say this is a must for mid, as it can get you out of any situation (unless you made a big mistake) safely.||
|Ignite: A great summoner spell. It synergises nicely with Torment, increasing the true damage it deals, whilst dealing damage simultaneously.
|Teleport: is handy for getting back to lane or to help your team, I would not recommend this for soloqueue, as it's uses are less versatile and the team is not as coordinated. In ranked teams, one teleport is handy, particularly vsing a Shen.||
|Exhaust: Stops a large amount of the enemies damage, as well as cripple their movement speed, allowing you to easily land your combo, and keeps them in range of Decrepify. Good to take vs strong AoE mages or statue champions, namely Karthus.
|Ghost: Can be useful for kiting and chasing so that you can apply your CCs and allow your team to catch up, but I personally prefer Flash for this.
I tend to like starting with CC. So I take Nevermove first, although this is personal.
Maxing Torment first is the best choice, as it increases the damage of all other skills when you level it up. Of course, Ravenous Flock should take precedence.
Decrepify is stronger in terms of your burst, but if they break the tether it is wasted. It also doesn't lower CD and isn't useful for waveclearing.
If you are getting pushed, or are not experienced at knowing when to use Decrepify, I would suggest maxing this second, otherwise, stick with Decrepify and finish with this.
If you can't determine whether you want Nevermove or Decrepify, you can also stutter points quite effectively.
Below are chapters relevant to the itemisation. I have listed, alternatives, overviews, starting paths, synergies and comparisons. Click here to go back to the contents page
As aforementioned, Swain is an extremely versatile champion. He has numerous items benefit him that other champions do not.
That been said, the 'standard' build I go on him, is my most typical build due to the kinds of characters I like to play in the mid lane.
Starting items have a strong impact on the dynamic of a lane. Picking advantageous items will make your lane much easier, whilst neglecting to think of which items would benefit you may leave you in some trouble.
There are 3 item starts I have listed above, but these aren't the only starts possible ofcourse. I will detail these starts, amongst a few others.
Faerie Charm, Health Potion, Mana Potion and Sight Ward grants you coverage, sustain and puts you closer to your Tear of the Goddess. A good start in a safe/passive lane.
Cloth Armor and Health Potion is now a stronger start for AP mids as a mitigation for all the AD mids. It now upgrades into Seeker's Armguard, a part of Zhonya's Hourglass, of which is pivotal on Swain.
Crystalline Flask, Health Potion and Sight Ward grants coverage and some sustain. Not as good as previous, but still viable, particularly for poke heavy, but passive/safe lanes.
Boots of Speed and Health Potion has fallen out of favour since the changes to boots, however if you are versing someone who is easy to juke, but also deals alot of damage, you could take these. (i.e. Gragas)
The infamous all consumables start. You can grab a vast quantity of Health Potions and Mana Potions to see you through the lane phase, whilst starting with 2 sight wards to cover all bases. You have nothing towards your mid/late game goals, but is still a means to an end of achieving these through allowing safe, uncontested farming.
The 'standard' build I use on him focuses on stacking items. This means you won't have the initial impact that you could if you went for an early game build, but will scale better.
It is a good idea to stack an early Tear of the Goddess. Seraph's Embrace is a great item, particularly on people who require a large mana pool.
The stats of Seraph's Embrace; 1000 Mana, 60 AP and 10 mana regeneration would cost you:
- Mana: (1000/200)*400=2000
- AP: 60*(435/20)=1305
- Regen: (180/3)*10=600
2000+1305+600=3905 Gold, not counting the passive or active.
Sorcerer's Shoes are the most common boots to run on magic damage mid laners. Amplifies your damage, particularly early.
Could be traded out for Mercury's Treads if you are against strong CC mid/Jungler.
catalyst the protector into Rod of Ages grants you a nice chunk of health, mana and AP. Also grants you sustain through the laning phase.
This item is quite versatile in that you tank up, get a larger mana pool and deal more damage.
This isn't normally favourable, because all of these stats may not be required, but on Swain, they are all extremely beneficial. Also, Swain has a kit that enables you to stay safe whilst it charges.
You might as well pick up a Seeker's Armguard here, so you have the trifecta of stacking AP items ( Tear of the Goddess, Rod of Ages and Seeker's Armguard). These all pay divedends assuming you manage to stack them, making you really strong for the money you invest.
Here your build can segway into an offensive or defensive build. Picking up a Needlessly Large Rod is a good idea, and you can turn this into any of the 3 items and be very effective on Swain.
- Deathfire Grasp: Adds single-target burst and synergises with Torment
- Rabadon's Deathcap: Adds to your damage, making you a strong AoE monster
- Zhonya's Hourglass: Adds to your survivability, also allows you to deal damage with 3 spells while in stasis
From here, if your Tear of the Goddess is full, or close to full, you should look at upgrading it into Archangel's Staff. The active of Seraph's Embrace is huge, use it if you start taking damage.
If they enemy team has stacked magic resist, buying a Void Staff now is ideal, else you can delay this purchase and instead pick up another of the listed items before.
I would suggest picking up Zhonya's Hourglass here if you don't already have one, and a Rabadon's Deathcap if you do.
Apologies for the 'Wall of Text' appearance. I will format it better when I think of how I can do so without making it dauntingly long and keeping it informative.
Abyssal Scepter: Reduces the opponents magic resist, amplifying your damage. Also grants decent ability power and magic resist.
Athene's Unholy Grail: One passive is great for lane phase, whilst the other is great for teamfights. Also solves many mana issues.
However, it offers mana regen instead of a mana pool, which isn't as good for Swain as you constantly use mana. Still a good choice, can be used instead of, or in combination with, Tear of the Goddess/ Seraph's Embrace. Also, only offers 60 AP, which isn't great on a 'final' item.
Banshee's Veil: Grants some nice health, mana and MR, and could be built out of an early Catalyst the Protector, which enabled you to sustain in lane. The passive is great and can save you. Getting this is game dependant, but its definently a strong choice, especially vsing some champions such as Blitzcrank and Karthus.
Deathfire Grasp: Is affected, as are all items and summoner spells, by Torment. This makes this item a great choice for Swain, and definently one of the 3 items I consider in the mid-game.
Doran's Ring: Boads well for Swain, as it essentially amplifies his passives effectiveness, and gives some cheap health, ability power and mana regeneration.
Frozen Heart: I would only suggest getting this if your team doesn't already have one. That been said, it offers a nice passive, as well as good mana, armour and cooldown reduction. Great pickup vs all AD teams, and fair vs standard teams.
Guardian Angel: Did receive a (justified) nerf, however the changes made it more global, so now its not only useful for AD carries. Despite the lowering to armour and magic resistance, the passive is better if you have 2500 health or more, and 1250 mana or more. Combines well with Spirit Visage, as the heal is increased to 36%, as well as it offering free health.
Ionian Boots of Lucidity: An ok choice, but cooldown isn't as neccessary on Swain as on some champions, furthermore, you can already get cooldown from numerous other sources. ( Spirit Visage, Frozen Heart, Athene's Unholy Grail, Deathfire Grasp and Morellonomicon)
Kage's Lucky Pick: More versatile than last season. Now builds into Will of the Ancients, which is an option for Swain. Getting this early if you are not doing great is a good idea. Even if you are, you could look for the passive gold to increase your overall gold.
Liandry's Torment: Adds to your damage over time, which means its a fairly good choice to grab, particularly if you grab Rylai's Crystal Scepter. The only problem is neither of these items grant you mana, which may lead to problems.
Lich Bane: Possible. Adds mana, AP and the proc of the item is increased by Torment. That been said, as an AoE mage that doesn't really autoattack, it isn't perhaps the best use of a slot.
Mejai's Soulstealer: I wouldn't really reccommend this item at all, its far too game dependant. Though, that been said, it's a decent item, especially if you can stack it. Swain also has to enter the battle to deal damage, which means he may be prone to losing stacks.
Mercury's Treads: A good choice if the enemy team has significant CC, particularly if they have atleast some magic damage. The only real 'place' Swain can get tenacity since the change (except through masteries, but they stack).
With Tenacious , reduces the duration of CC by 45%. A handy pickup vs strong CC mid laners in particular, such as Fiddlesticks or Morgana.
Mikael's Crucible: Heal and cleanse in one. Works on yourself, so a good pickup, however, you cannot use it whilst you are silenced, stunned or supressed. Also adds some nice mana and mana regeneration. Quicksilver Sash is a better choice vsing champions such as Warwick/ Malzahar/ Skarner
Morellonomicon: A fair choice. Good, particularly versing people that utilise healing (Although, it may prompt your opponents to invest in one as well). Great price for the stats, but doesn't have an amazing ability that sets it into a 'legendary' item.
Ninja Tabi: An alternative option for boots, good versing AD heavy teams, particularly if most rely on autoattacks rather than abilities (such as Gangplank as opposed to Lee Sin)
Quicksilver Sash: A good buy vsing champs with supresses. Adds MR which also helps, but upgrading to Mercurial Scimitar isn't optimal. That said, after your build is full, you might want to upgrade it anyway.
Rod of Ages: Fairly core to Swain in my opinion. Adds a nice amount of health, mana and ability power, all of which benefit you tremendously. Also grants some sustain throughout the laning phase.
Rabadon's Deathcap: The big AP item. Increases your AP by 25%, meaning it is best mid-game and scales to late game. Not as good as a first item since S3 changes. Still a great item for gaining AP, and boosts your damage significantly.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter: Adds some nice health anda ability power, as well as adding slows to your abilities which is very helpful, particularly if you buy Liandry's Torment.
Seraph's Embrace: A great item. It, along with muramana, has changed Tear of the Goddess from a niche item into an item that, though halts your early game slightly, scales extremely well.
Offers significant mana and ability power as well as an amazing active that, though consumes a lot of mana, shields yourself for an enormous amount. (with 3000 mana, 750 damage shield)
Sorcerer's Shoes: Amplifies your damage, particularly against low MR targets. Standard boots to run, with a few possible alternatives.
Spirit Visage: Strong defensive item vsing AP champions. Increases your Ravenous Flock, as well as spell vamp if you have any, whilst granting cooldown, health and magic resist.
Thornmail: Good versing fed autoattackers that rely on physical damage.
Twin Shadows: An interesting item. Can be used to scout, and to slow people so to make your abilities easier to land. Also has some nice MR and ability power. An alternative mid-game item that enables you to grab an early Kage's Lucky Pick
Void Staff: Cuts through 40.2% of your opponents magic resist when combined with Arcane Knowledge making this item a must versing tanks with a lot of magic resistance. Could be replaced if noone has any magic resistance, for some unfathomable reason.
Will of the Ancients: Good to get for being a lifesteal tank, especially with Spirit Visage. Good normally, but if you have another AP on your team ( Vladimir, Singed, Rumble etc.) it's a very solid pickup.
Zhonya's Hourglass: Core on Swain amongst a few other champions. Unfortunantly, there was a recent change to this item that means you still expunge mana whilst a toggle such as Ravenous Flock or Defile is on. However, it still enables you to safely use this, so it is still huge. Also grants a tonne of ability power and a decent chunk of armor.
As I previously stated, Swain is versatile, this is particularly true for builds. Some items synergise together nicely and are good on him, whilst some are just stand alone items that can help.
Here, I've attached an in-game screenshot, with circles indicating items that synergise well together. Just because of this though, it doesn't mean you need to get one if you get the other, as buying Abyssal Scepter vsing a full AD team is bad.
How to read: Items with the same colour of circle surrounding them synergise well. (i.e. Liandry's Torment, Rylai's Crystal Scepter and Abyssal Scepter or Will of the Ancients and Spirit Visage)
Items without a similar colour don't have any spectacular synergy, but can fit into any build if needed.
|Alacrity: In general, I would say that these are outclassed. On Swain, these are a good choice though thanks to your playstyle (stutterstrep/orbwalking all day). A fair choice, if you are the team on the aggression.||
|Furor: A solid pair of shoes. Revolves around single target, so it can be good if you plan to use Decrepify and Torment in a way to gain from these, but I think that these are more suited to chasers/single targetters such as Olaf, Ryze or Fiora.
|Distortion: Refreshes Flash cooldown much sooner, decent choice. Great choice if running Teleport/ Ghost with Flash.||
|Captain: No. SPACESOMUCHSPACESPACEYAYYOUFOUNDTHEEASTEREGGYOUWINCONGRATZ
|Homeguard: Great boots. Speed boost to get back to lane/action faster and full heal instantly helps, especially with so much mana. Great for defending and retruning to lane, bad once actually in fights near their base.
I would recommend Enchantment: Homeguard if you are defending/laning or Enchantment: Alacrity if you are performing prolonged sieges.
Spellvamp- WotA or Spectral Wraith?
Interestingly, this is debatable. Many people have written off Spectral Wraith if you are not a jungle champion, due to not particularly benefitting from the UNIQUE Passive: Butcher.
That been said, these items are actually fairly situational, and I don't think WotA should be the default purchase if you are after Spellvamp. Below is a direct compartison between them.
- Ability Power: 80 (30 Aura)
- Spellvamp: 20% (Aura)
||Spirit of the Spectral Wraith
- 50 Ability Power
- 20% Spellvamp
- 10% Cooldown Reduction
- 10 Mana Regeneration
- 25% More damage to monsters
From above, you can see Spirit of the Spectral Wraith not only costs less, but also grants alot more stats. Will of the Ancients is preferential if you have a high spell damage team, or a team with AP ratios.
Spirit of the Spectral Wraith also makes it easier to retrieve blue buff, as well as speeds up baron and dragon.
If you are playing, and you wish to purchase spellvamp, choose between:
30 AP + (Aura) and the Spellvamp aura ( Will of the Ancients) and
10% CDR, 10 Mana Regen, 550 Gold and Butcher ( Spirit of the Spectral Wraith)
Differences between MR Reduction and MPen
This section is taken from my 'Mathematical Look at League' "guide". Although, this is changed to be more relevant to Swain.
Flat MR reduction and Flat Magic Penetration both have a universal goal, to remove the effectiveness of opponents (low) magic resistance, thus allowing magic damage to do more damage through not being reduced by as large of a number.
They both effectively reduce the targets' magic resist, either through directly affecting the stat or by ignoring part of it.
Where they differ however, is that Flat MR reduction is a debuff that must be applied to the opponent in order for them to take the extra damage. Flat Magic Penetration, however, is a statistic that always applies when calculating magic damage that you deal.
This means that, for a specific example, Abyssal Scepter only increases the effectiveness of magic damage within 700 range (excluding the AP offered as a result of the item) due to the aura procing the debuff within 700 range. That been said, if they are further than 700 units from you, but within 700 range of another holder of Abyssal Scepter, they are applied the debuff and would take the same damage anyway.
This means that if you have sufficient range (such as Teemo's Noxious Trap and Karthus' Requiem), this items passive won't be of much effect. Though, irregardless of the enemies position, magic penetration will still effect it equally, meaning that MPen is a better choice for people with global, or long, range.
Due to this, Abyssal Scepter should only be obtained on people that are likely to be within 700 range so as to use the benefits of the aura, such as Swain.
NOTE: Magic Penetration/MR Reduction affects all magic damage, even those that do not scale with AP or scale with AP and AD. Common examples include Dr. Mundo's Infected Cleaver and Ezreal's Trueshot Barrage.
Rabadon's Deathcap- S2 to S3
Stacking Rabadon's Deathcap was, in my opinion, never optimal.
That been said however, in season 2, Rabadon's Deathcap offered 140 AP, 40 higher than any other item in the game at that time. Furthermore, the passive was 30% instead of 25%*, meaning that the 40 bonus AP resulted in 52 extra ability power than you would have with an alternative item.
Due to this, getting a second Rabadon's Deathcap or a Zhonya's Hourglass was a choice between 52 AP or 50 armour, 500 gold and the active.
Now, this decision is clearcut, getting a second Rabadon's Deathcap over a Zhonya's Hourglass is never a good idea.
They both now have the same ability power, and Rabadon's Deathcap passive is UNIQUE, so it will not stack. This means, for 210 gold more, Zhonya's Hourglass grants the user 50 armour and the stasis active whilst not losing out on anything else.
*On PBE, Rabadon's Deathcap UNIQUE Passive is back to 30%. This still doesn't mean that stacking them in any way, shape or form benefits you.
Below section contains Tips/suggestions for how to play out different stages of the game. Click here to go back to the contents page
Once you have tear, try to make a habit of turning Ravenous Flock on whilst you are shopping. Free stacks means your tear will fill much faster, meaning your mana pool is larger, and you aren't left with a half full Archangel's Staff 30 minutes into a game.
When your opponent is going to last hit a low creep, if you have spare mana, and in particular, a blue buff, try casting Nevermove to where they would have to move in order to hit the said minion. This will mean, they will either take free harass or miss a minion as a result, and possibly both.
Warding with one ward each side of your lane will allow you to be safe assuming you watch your map and pay attention. Warding on their wraiths will allow you to see when your lane opponent, or their jungle, is clearing the camp.
Advanced Tip- Stacking Tear for Free
During the lane phase, try to stay safe and dodge any skillshots. Focus on harassing with Torment, using Nevermove and Decrepify if appropriate.
One thing to note about Swain is that his passive, Carrion Renewal grants you endless mana as long as you manage it well, and you are able to last hit with him effectively.
I strongly suggest working on getting used to his autoattack speed, because it is a little odd when you first use it, and CSing is arguably more important to get on Swain than others, due to the fact you get gold AND regain mana.
After you reach level 6 and grab a blue buff, you can spam your spells a bit more, and use Ravenous Flock to heal up and set you clearly ahead in trades.
Also, taking wraiths is not only possible, but easy with Swain. Decrepify the large wraith, Nevermove and Ravenous Flock to heal and pick up some bonus gold.
Due to Swain's kit, he can fight some top laners exceptionally well. In particular, melee champions without spammable gap closers. You can slow them with Decrepify and snare them with Nevermove.
Try to throw out harass whenever they go to last hit, and make sure you keep your mana topped up via CSing. Throwing autoattacks onto the enemy champion doesn't hurt either. (I lie, it hurts them)
Managing Mana + Blue Buff (Sorry for the illiteration)
Before even picking Swain, it is a good idea to check if your jungler will allow you to obtain blue buff. Blue buff is, in all honestly, almost a necessity for Swain due to the upkeep cost, along with damage and healing potential from Ravenous Flock.
You will receive back a decent amount of mana thanks to Carrion Renewal, but if your vsing a champion that shoves the lane very easily, such as Karthus or Morgana, you will need to spend far more mana to countershove than you will be refunded.
If you don't countershove, and just last hit on turret, you may miss CS some due to your autoattack animation, and you will allow your lane opponent to take wraiths, or even roam to help other lanes.
Your main goals for teamfights should be using Decrepify to peel for you and your ADC, catching as many people in Nevermove as possible, using Torment onto a high priority target and then using Ravenous Flock in Zhonya's Hourglass in a position where you will be useful and deal damage to the opposing team.
Thanks for reading, and good luck. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments, or add me in game (IGN: Jawzeyy).