Swain Build Guide by Puminor
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.
Proof of AP Swain = Tank Swain
Below I have stats of a recent game that I had played as Swain. You will notice that on my team (the top team), there is no true tank! Even knowing that, I still took mid, dominated the lane (like I describe how to in my guide), and still built AP Swain. Take a second to review my stats as I highlighted four things...
1. Damage Dealt - Seeing how I built AP Swain, we can all assume that I will have high damage output, but notice I have the highest damage between 10 players!
2. Healing Done - I wanted to post these stats for the game to show you that with my AP Build, I still have soaring Healing Done without building a Will of the Ancients or Spirit Visage.
More AP = More Ult Healing!
3. Swain's Damage Taken - Here is what I want you to pay attention to the most! My team had 0 tanks and I still built AP, like I said before, and yet I had more Damage Taken than the Rammus! By the end of the game with over 900ap and only 2400hp, I (Swain) was taking and doing the most damage!
4. Rammus' Damage Taken - Comparing Rammus' Damage Taken with Swain's Damage Taken, they are close indeed, but NO Mage should be able to tank as much as a rammus with a 3 Second Taunt and Defensive Curl! These stats clearly show how much of a tank Mage Swain can be!
A few things I want people to consider is... although these stats show that AP Swain was tanking and damaging, it is not as easy as Rammus.
- SWAIN IS NOT RAMMUS! - Although these stats show how much Swain can tank as much as Rammus, you can't just sit and tank like a Pure Tank.
- Zhonya's Hourglass is a must - If you feel you need to do this much tanking in your game, Zhonya's hourglass is very key to get before Rabadon's Deathcap! This was my key source to tanking all game, they would focus me as I would do my combo, and Hourglass would save my *** everytime!
- Play Swain like a Mage - Don't try this build and insist on being the teams tank. You still do not want to die! You are the mage! These stats are to merely show that AP Swain is tankable, but not what his objective is!
So you guys know, everything I write here is a personal reference. I just hope after playing so many games with Swain that I can put my insight about him in words so you all can have a better understanding. With that said, if you have more fun and enjoy playing Swain your way, than totally do it! This game is about having fun and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Personally, I love to play Swain as a Nuke and take people out quick with the risks of myself dying quicker than a tank. I just like how risky I can be with the sh*t I pull off and that makes it more fun for me. But I do advise people to try all builds with Swain and play what feels best with your style.
*****Okay guys, it has been my duty to consistantly play Swain and better understand all of Swain's ins-and-outs. I have created an alternate account and have been only using Swain (since he is on free week), and came to a couple of conclusions.
1. At lower levels, runes aren't necessary considering no one else has them, but I'm telling you if you just go the extra mile to buy even Tier 2 ap and ap penetration runes, it will help you get a couple more kills easily.
2. Since the new Zhonya's change, you can most certainly skip out on mejai's and go straight for a different AP item depending on what counters your enemies better.*****
Quick notes about the build:
-Will allow you to do heavy damage all game.
-Ability to tank 3v1 or more while killing them all. (If played and timed correctly)
-Will not be able to handle the build without knowledge of Micro and Skillshots
Swain is a very underrated champion that should get more credit for how much damage he actually does. Swain can be a very difficult champion if you cannot land Nevermove. Nevermove is your main source of ganking at the early laning phase. Also, it is possible to get early bloods with Swain as early as level 2 when you learn how to harrass correctly.
Updates to Item Build Since Zhonya's Change
Rabadon's Deathcap: Personally, I enjoy getting this item first for a few reasons.
1.Earlier AP = More Damage = More Killing
2. I rely more on micro and picking off their carries to survive than an item active (Hourglass).
Zhonya's Hourglass: I chose this item to get first on the item list for a few reasons.
1. It is much easier to survive in a team fight than if you were just scaling more AP with Rabadon's Hat.
2. It may create more of a tankable ability if you have enough DPS from your teammates to kill their team without more damage from yourself.
Choosing Hourglass over Hat will require a bit of thinking. If your team doesn't have enough damage to kill their carries, go after Hat first and be more careful. It is more important for you to kill a few carries and sacrifice yourself for the better of the team. However, if you know your team will do enough damage to them without a few more ap from yourself, then get Hourglass first. It is a great survivability item and will keep your soulstealer stacks easier than Rabadon's Hat would if you choose to get Mejai's Soulstealer.
I have chosen Flash for a few reasons. Flash is a great great surprise attack on anyone when laning. Players feel they are safe behind creep lines and when you flash to them it is a great scare and obviously allows less time for an enemy to flee.
Also, Flash is the best way for a mage to enter team fights when not seen. Just like a Kassadin, flash allows me to sit behind trees when pushing to bypass the annoyance of tanks guarding their carries.
Most ppl feel they need to get survivability summoner spells more with swain, but if played correctly, ignite just adds to the madness. Ignite consistantly gets me first blood and many kills after that. The reason for it is because you combo it with Torment and Decrepify and you have another bloodthirsting Damage Over Time spell that is increased in damage by the effect of Torment. Not only does it help with damage but it can be used to reduce any lifestealing effects to cripple your enemies.
The reason why I choose these masteries are because I have chosen ignite as a summoner spell. So I want the last point in Utility to reduce my cd on Flash for a bit more survivability and ganking. Also the reduced cooldowns helps Swain to kite and consistantly throw his spells out as he gets his lifesteal. Also, Runic Affinity is key to grab because if you are with a great respectable team, they will certainly understand that Swain with Golem Blue Buff enhances his carrying by a significant amount.
My rune build is simple, straight ap and ap penetration. With dorans ring this gives me over 40 ap at lvl 1 and the ability to gank very early.
I honestly don't understand why everyone keeps picking Nevermove first as a skill. It is completely foolish and the wrong way to go. In smart game play you don't take the chance of pre-game rushes and even then you have support and tank characters with Crowd Control abilities. Also, Swain should not be a laner! The best team composition has 1 ap nuke on the team and 1 strong melee who take the top and mid solos. Even if someone else happened to take Swain's solo, Swain should be paired up with a support who cc's as Swain does his burst dmg. Nevermove first would cripple his dmg. The best combo early game is E and Q considering Q can also slow. With the support of another partner that can CC, his damage ranks a whole lot higher without putting a point into Nevermove first.
How to Use Nevermove!
Nevermove can be a HUGE hit or miss on an enemy! But if you study your enemy, you will be able to land it more often than not!
Using Nevermove when soloing:
Is your enemy a noob or pro?!?! When you are soloing, you need to distinguish whether you are soloing against a good or bad player. This means you can either open up with Nevermove (if they are bad) or bait them into Nevermove (if they are better than an average player). What I mean by this is, no noob will run in a straight line. If they know you can land Nevermove, they will usually run to the side, and not back and forth. So this means you run at them like you are going to use your Nevermore, cast your slow or even your Torment as they plan on trying to dodge your Nevermove. Doing this will make them freak out and then do two things..
1. They will either run back in a straight line, or....
2. If it is a stunner or an aggressive player they will probably initiate on you.
Once you figure out whether they run or initiate at that point, that's when you land Nevermove on them. If they had just initiated on you, that is an easy way to bind them, and kite them away as your spells do damage. If they run then just have fun chasing them down and harrassing them.
Using Nevermove during teamfights:
Using Nevermove during a team fight is much more different than soloing. Typically when you are standing with your team, your frontline enemies will run back when you run towards them.
1. Overextended Carries: One of the few times you use nevermove in a teamfight is for misplaced carries! If you see a carry stupidly harrassing your team and are infront of their team's tanks, just quickly bind them when they run at your team and they will die in 3 seconds. (Make sure your team is good enough to be able to respond to quick ganks like that)
2. Be patient: Once a team fight starts, you need to distinguish a couple of things. One of them is whether or not their tanks and melee are jumping on one of your teammates. This means you can Nevermove the area of your teammate and give them a chance to escape. If you have no one being focused and have a free focus fire, wait to use your Nevermove on an escapee. Typically you dont even need the damage from Nevermove until a last hit, so don't waste it on a target that is at full health and you are the only one targetting it.
3. Be selfish, you need to stay alive: If you have to Nevermove to save another teammate, realize that they can easily turn to you now. Be prepared to flash away from the enemies if you have to. If you don't pay attention then you are risking your life!
Example of how to use Nevermove and its impact: A team of 2 Ranged Carries and the rest melees: Wait for your team to initiate, bind the 3 melees into one spot when they focus one of your players, then focus a ranged carry. This allows the team to free roam around their tanks and melee's for a couple seconds, which gives everyone enough time to take down their ranged carries. Once they are gone then the kiting and chasing begins.
I have on my item build, Doran's Ring or Null-Magic Mantle + 2HP Pots because it is situational. If I am playing easy solo characters that are very squishy, I typically choose Doran's Ring for more burst. But if I am playing characters such as Malzahar or Galio, I will get a Null-Magic Mantle and 2 HP Pots for easier defense against them. I take a risk with my item build, because I start with Rod of Ages. However on a typical non-fed game, I get Rod of Ages by 25-28 minutes. On a good game, I usually get Rod of Ages by 18-22 minutes after my mejais, boots, and chalice. This is not a beginner's build, it requires knowledge and micro like I said early to keep from getting ganked and to gank enemies. By the time I get my Rabadon's Deathcap, I have 500+ ap without turning chalice into Athene's Unholy Grail. When all is done by end game I have 800+ ap and 2-3 shot carries with this build.it slows down my ability to get
Rod of Ages > Rylai's Crystal Scepter
I have came across many other Swain's when they choose him first before I can grab him in a ranked game and I can't tell you how many of them I see choose Rylai's > Rod of Ages. I choose Rod of Ages > Rylai's for a few reasons..
Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Total Price: 3105
Recipe Price: 700
80 Ability Power, 500 Health. Passive: Dealing spell damage slows the target's movement speed by 35% for 2 seconds (15% for multi-target spells).
Rod of Ages
Total Price: 3035
Recipe Price: 850
60 Ability Power, 450 Health, 525 Mana. Passive: Your Champion gains 18 Health, 20 Mana, and 2 Ability Power every 1 min. Bonuses cap at +180 Health, +200 Mana and +20 Ability Power.
1. I feel the mana coming from RoA makes Archangels that much more useful than a Rylai's would, giving him a bit more ap than just +80.
2. Although Rylai's has a nice slow, I rely on my slow that I already have and Nevermove to make kills, so I prefer the ap > the slowing.
3. Honestly the little more ap, hp, and mana is better in the long run considering no one runs in team fights by late game.
4. To add to #3, you'll deal so much Damage over time you dont even need to chase and slow with rylai's after you throw out your 3 skill combo on a carry and hit them with your ult a couple times.
5. You are pretty much paying for a slow that you don't need... Get the extra stats!!
Alternate Items to Consider
Abyssal Scepter- Great Great alternate ap item that will help you deal more while tanking more against those annoying casters.
Void Staff - One of the best caster item's you can get when they start to stack Magic Resistance. Typically at the end I usually would substitute this with Zhonya's Hourglass if I'm not in any threat of being focused.
Mercury's Treads - One of the best boots anyone can get due to its passive effect. If you are in any threat by casters or crowd controllers, get this item to help keep yourself alive!
Will of the Ancient Will of the Ancient - Another good AP item that will help out your team as well as yourself. However, I only primarily get this item if there are 2 AP carries on the team to get a better benefit from the item.
Mejai's Soulstealer - Everyone of course downgrades this item, but with my aggressive gameplay, it is a great item to get. In most of my builds, I typically build this instead of Abyssal Scepter, only because I have gotten very familiar with Swain's defense and capabilities. But this item is a very situational item to get. Make sure you understand the risks and challenges it brings before getting this item.
When to Buy a Banshee's Veil
There is a time when you need to stop thinking AP and start thinking survive! Because I chose to put Soulstealer in my build, you might want to consider grabbing a Banshee's Veil > Rod of Ages.
Examples: When your opposing team has nuker's such as Kassadin, LeBlanc, Galio or Veigar, banshee's veil is a must. You will only be losing about 80+ ap but gaining the Magic Resistance and Shield to make it easier to kill those Mage Killers. Other than those two you really don't need to swap out the AP. But all in all, you will still have enough penetration and ap through your runes and items to be able to take the defensive item into your build. Always consider the possibility!
Remember! - You are the Nuke on the team! Your team is much better off with your nukes alive than dead.
Swain the Pure Mage.... How did he just tank that whole group?!?!
Recently after the Zhonya's change, I have been trying out tankier builds for him that were also listed here on Mobafire. Builds that involve items such as Abyssal Scepter, Sunfire, Spirit Visage, Zhonya's Hourglass, and items like those.
I have came to the conclusion that "tank" Swain is completely not needed, for a few reasons.
1. When you are on a team, there are much better champions that would be a more OP off tank than Swain.
2. Turning Swain tank is like turning Malphite into an AD Carry. Of course it works well and I've tried it and have been very successful at Off Tank Swain, but it's not his job. Swain's job, like any other AP Carry, is to just simply nuke their team! Of course getting a banshee's veil(a tankier item) is something to consider because you do need some defense to withhold their blast of carries. But what's best for the team is to be a full AP Nuke, not a tank.
3. Sure being able to take hits from Swain would be more fun than it already is, but its just upgrading your tanking ability and downgrading your damage. It's true when I play tank Swain, I do a certain amount of decent damage, but not enough to completely wipe out their carries. Because of this, I am able to take more hits than before, but longer lasting hits isn't the answer...
What makes Swain so powerful is that he has the ability to even take 100% more hits without going tank than ANY other mage! Especially since he can keep his Ultimate going as he uses Zhonya's Hourglass.
Example: When I play AP Mage Swain, I just about tank as much as I would as an Off Tank Swain. I do so much more damage that when the opposing team is smart, they focus me. When teamfights start, I immediately cast my combo spells on a carry and bind his team to place. When I do that and they remember how much damage I actually do as a nuker, I anticipate them turning focus fire onto me. When that happens, I quickly turn on my ult, kill that carry that I first nuked if he wasn't already dead, than wait to cast Zhonya's Hourglass.
I have done this combo so many times, I have literally gotten a kill, lost almost all HP, and have gotten it all back just through an Hourglass. How much more tankier can that be? Than once you get all your hp back or whenever your Hourglass runs out of time, you can just flash away and bind them again and pick off another carry.
Swain is one of the most powerful carries due to his ability E (Torment). Never start the game getting Q, especially if you solo, for numerous reasons..
1. If you get Q first (Decrepify), the slow typically will scare someone away.
2. Q can be kited and does not do full damage.
3. When you get E first, that allows you to do more damage from your melee attacks at level 1.
Once you hit level 2, thats when the harrassing truly begins. I can't emphasize enough how strong Swain is as a harrasser. Just a couple times of combining E and then Q will get you first blood. But again, you need to learn how to harrass without getting yourself hurt at the same time. Consistantly keep your enemy at half life and by the time you hit lvl 4 you get first blood. You simply, like any mage, cc them but in our case Nevermove them in place, flash to them, quickly use E Ignite and Q as you auto attack them.. BOOM FIRST BLOOD! I have done this sooo much it is the easiest way for first blood. By then you are now farming to lvl 6 by the time your enemy gets back (unless they have teleport). At this point you just keep doing the same thing over and over, but this time when u flash and do your combo, remember to activate R near the creeps as well and you wont lose any hp as you see your enemy run in FEAR!
Now that you understand early solo ganks, now comes the hard part, ganking other lanes!!!
Ganking is quite easy with Swain. But again, you must know how to land Nevermove. Also, grabbing Blue Buff from Golem is a MUST!!!!! This helps you consistantly hold R longer and farm easy. You do not need Blue Buff to gank but it is a huge bonus.
Mid game is now the time wehre you gain your stacks of Mejai's(if you have chosen Mejai's that is) and destroy face. With this item build, by the time you get RoA at 25 minutes you can 2v1 and 3v1 while gettings kills. You have to learn how to micro (the ability to run in and out of combat to reduce damage) and Crowd Control your enemies to reduce even more damage. Unlike other mages, swain has the ability to get life back AND cc his enemies, use it to your advantage.
Now that you are 3 levels higher than the laners, you can easily bind and 3 shot others with a few hits from your teammates. If you have no teammates and you are trying to 2v1 against a lane, just simply harrass them a few times before you can kill them. After playing multiple games with Swain you know when you can flash in for the kill and when you need to keep harrassing them before you can kill.
Here is when the fun teamfights happen. Usually my games end at 30 minutes because I am fed with a 6:1 or 5:1 ratio by then. But anytime after that they are funnn games.
This is the point where you flank your enemy's carries by flashing over walls and 3 shotting them. I'm telling you, with even 300+ ap, you can take down an enemy in 4-8 seconds. Once you flash in its the normal combo but without binding them first. E, Q, Ult Ignite. As your target gets blasted down to 25% health you just follow them and your ult will finish, while you bind or switch to your next target. You need to anticipate that your enemy's tanks will turn on you when you blast their carries, so thats why you save your Bind for when they come at you and its an easy escape.
IMPORTANT! - Remember you can't keep your ult on forever, so once you know you can bind and kite some of their enemies after killing their enemy, quickly turn off your ult. I can't EMPHASIZE this enough!!!! If you dont do this you will drain all your mana. THis build is not a "how long can I ult for". Although by late game it wont matter because you will kill them too fast to even turn it off.
Now after you kill a carry and kite some enemies, you still have your team stomping on them as well. At this point you can simply zhonya's if in danger or even target their next carry and get a double kill. Swain can easily pick off carries and tank at the same time. I have flashed into a team fight, killd their carry, zhonya'd and got all my hp back through the zhonya duration, flashed away as I targetted another carry. Then its now a 5v3 and you just run in target another and tank the 3 as they will hate you and target you.
Early game is one of Swain's most important phases to destroy in mid-end game. It is not needed for first blood or any early game kills, but it definitely helps you get your items faster. With great micro skills, ganking ability, and correct combos with his spells, you can tear enemies to shreds and show your teammates how useful Swain can be.