Swain Build Guide by Vsin
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.
Swain is one of those often underrated champions that is underplayed simply because he never gets enough exposure. What everybody is missing out on is one of the tankiest AP carries in the game, only comparable to maybe Ryze, but even in that case Swain sports comparable sustained and far better AoE damage than Ryze.
Spell Pen Reds, MP5/Level Yellow, AP/Level Blue, Flat AP Quints. Pretty standard mage stuff. However you can also opt for the following:
- Flat Armor Yellow and/or Blue if you want to put Swain up top. As of this posting, the meta dictates that 90% of solo top champions deal Physical damage, so more armor is always better. However, you can usually get comparable results by starting with a Cloth Armor + 5 Potions.
- Flat Magic Resist Yellow and/or Blue is helpful against certain mid matchups. Just like the Flat Armor runes, this is also situational, and you can get the same benefit from starting with a Null-Magic Mantle.
My masteries of choice are 21/0/9, taking all the AP stuff in Offense, and focusing on Mana, MP5 and Neutral Buff Duration in Utility. I'd strongly recommend taking the Neutral Buff Duration mastery because Swain is incredibly dependent on the Blue Buff, so increasing its duration allows Swain to be active for longer stretches of time. However, if you so desire you can go for 21/9/0 for defensive masteries (2/4 in MR and Armor, rest in HP/Level and Flat HP). I probably wouldn't take less than 21 in the Offense tree though, just because you'll be playing Swain as the carry, and carries always want to do more damage.
This is the crux of the guide. The item build listed above is intentionally vague.
This is incredibly variable, and it depends entirely on who you plan on going up against. However, the outline is as follows:
- Standard - Mana Crystal + 2 Health Potion
- Vs Anti-Mage - Null Magic Mantle + 2 Health Potion
- Vs Physical Solo Top - Cloth Armor + 5 Health Potion OR Boots of Speed + 3 Health Potion
- Vs Champion that relies on Skillshots - Boots of Speed + 3 Health Potion
Also, I'd like to note something important about the Null Magic Mantle start choice. If you decide to go down that route, you should add Spirit Visage to your build somewhere down the line so you make use of the Mantle. If you did the Cloth Armor start though, you can feel free to sell it...unless you feel the need to get something like a Thornmail or Frozen Heart.
The only items I'd strictly build in every game is a Rod of the Ages. Health, Mana and AP, all in large quantities, and all things that Swain wants. Boots will usually be Sorcerer's Shoes, but depending on your enemies you can build either Ninja Tabi or Mercury Treads as a counter to your opponents. This is pretty dependent on whether or not you're a higher priority target.
From there, we branch out into two directions: building AP, and building defenses. Rabbadon's Deathcap, Zonya's Hourglass and Abyssal Scepter are pretty much no-brainers when it comes to building for Swain, but what's important is the order in which you get the components.
Once you're done the Rod of the Ages and your Boots 2, you need to decide how deep you're going to be in fights. If you're going to serve the role of a more traditional mage, then go ahead and rush that Deathcap. However, if you think you're going to need to be more of a frontliner, grab a Chain Vest, or Negatron Cloak, or even both depending on the enemy team. From there, keep an eye on the way the game develops, and decide from there whether you should upgrade the Armor/MR or just rush the Deathcap.
Another important thing about defensive items is that in some situations you should ditch the core build. For example, if the enemies are heavily AD, you can choose to skip building any more AP and instead upgrade the Chain Vest to a Frozen Heart, or a Thornmail if you're the particular focus target. Similarly, you can build Quicksilver Sash or Banshee's Veil if you feel that you're facing a ton of magical damage. In particular, Quicksilver Sash can be used as a counter to Ignite.
Also, you may notice that past the Rod of the Ages, I don't put any other Health items in my build. To put it simply, Ravenous Flock already gives you a ton of EFFECTIVE health, so your defenses scale harder if you build resistances. Another thing to note is that I don't build a Will of the Ancients either - this is because Swain already gets a huge chunk of sustain out of his Ultimate, and he's better off stacking larger amounts of AP to boost Ravenous Flock's regen and his overall damage than spend that gold on spellvamp. Oh, and no Mejai's Soulstealer because you're nowhere near a safe location in fights where you can rack up kills and assists without much risk of dying.
Torment is his bread and butter, so that's getting maxed first no matter what. Ravenous Flock is obviously getting taken at 6, 11 and 16 because it's his Ultimate.
From there, I prefer to max Decrepify over Nevermove, because it gains a considerable chunk more damage than Nevermove, and the only real benefit to putting levels into Nevermove is to decrease its cooldown.
However, there's something very important to note about Nevermove: If you plan on invading the enemy jungle or otherwise get into a Level 1 teamfight, take Nevermove first. The utility of having a TWO SECOND snare is just too good that early on.
Ignite is pretty critical to Swain's early game, because that's how he gets his early kills. In some situations you can choose to swap it for either Exhaust or Teleport - in particular you should consider taking Teleport if you plan on going top instead of mid.
I take Flash no matter what. Ghost seems nice, but even after the nerfs it's still far more useful to have an instantaneous positioning modifier than it is to have a movespeed buff. Between Torment and Nevermove, Swain also doesn't need Ghost to stick to his target. However, the ability to close gaps and hop over walls with Flash is simply too good to pass up.