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Swain Build Guide by Joeyc1

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.

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Joeyc1

All Aboard the Swain Train

Joeyc1 Last updated on April 15, 2016
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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.


Natural Talent
Bounty Hunter
Battering Blows
Piercing Thoughts

Ferocity: 18

Dangerous Game

Cunning: 12

Tough Skin
Runic Armor
Veteran's Scars
Legendary Guardian

Resolve: 0

Threats to Swain with this build

Show all
Threat Champion Notes
Fizz Fizz has to farm in melee distance which means you can poke him to death from level 1. Early levels a good fizz will dodge your e with his playful/trickster, but this is a good thing because it costs up to 130 mana if he maxes it (which most fizzes do). It also has a longer cooldown than your e so you can still land your eq poke on him. Poke him, auto him when he goes to cs, if he EVER playful/tricksters aggressively, put your W root right at your own feet and watch as he lands right on it. EQ him and kill him. If he just plays passive, poke him out of lane, deny him tons of cs, and kill him if possible. The ONLY way he can kill you is if he lands his shark, full combo, and ignite. Flash the shark, flash his E damage, root his E. There are plenty of ways to outplay his all in, not to mention your E hits through his troll pole. You shouldn't lose this match-up for any reason.
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Hey everyone, I'm Joeyc1, a Plat 4 Swain main on NA. This guide isnt even close to done yet but I have finished a lot of the most common matchups so anyone who wants to know how Swain does against certain champions can check that for now while I work on the rest of the guide slowly.

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Mastery Discussion

I ran the numbers on Deathfire verses Thunderlords and only considering a single cast of E or Q, the two scale about the same until level 9 or so. More discussion below. As for the rest, it is pretty flexible around your preferences. I like to run assassin because I tend to go for kills in lane, but runic affinity for longer blue buffs is also nice. I recommend taking savagery for the easier last hitting. I value the spellvamp and life steal over the 15ap at level 18, but some people think a dorans ring worth of ap is more valuable than better early lane sustain and slightly more effective ults so thats up to you. The only real thing we are missing out on by taking deathfire over thunderlords is the hybrid pen in the cunning tree goes really well with our masteries for the early auto harass.

Below are the Ap values needed for deathfire to out damage thunderlords at every level from 1-18 for 1 dot ability with a 4 second duration ( E and Q).
1 1Ap
2 47Ap
3 94Ap
4 141Ap
5 188Ap
6 235Ap
7 282Ap
8 329Ap
9 376Ap
10 423Ap
11 470Ap
12 517Ap
13 565Ap
14 611Ap
15 658Ap
16 705Ap
17 752Ap
18 800Ap

From these numbers it seems like for the majority of the game, except level 1 and somewhere around level 9 where you might actually have that much Ap, thunderlords is superior, but there are a few things to take into account.
1. Thunderlords has a 25-15 Second cooldown while deathfire has no cooldown. This means if you trade more than once every 25 seconds early deathfire will end up doing more damage, regarless of Ap, for the most part.
2. Thunderlords takes 3 attacks to proc while deathfire applies immediately. This isnt that big a deal on swain but there are still situations in lane where it is more favorable to trade with only 1 or 2 attacks.
3. This is considering only 1 ability, because it is impossible to calculate it extended trades because that all depends on when abilities are overlapping. However, post 6 it is safe to assume that deathfire will be active for the entire duration of a trade because your ult will constantly reapply it. This means that in extended trades ( which is defined as any trade longer than 4 seconds based on this analysis) deathfire will begin to approach thunderlord's damage the longer the trade goes on. It is safe to assume that any trade that lasts longer than 10 seconds will favor deathfire over thunderlords, regardless of your current Ap.
4. Deathfire can be applied to mutiple targets. This means that in a teamfight deathfire will ALWAYS output more damage than thunderlords thanks to swains ult. Deathfire will be applied continuously to 3 targets throughout a teamfight that could last anywhere from 5 seconds to a minute or longer. Compare this to a flat 180 damage once and there is no contest.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Swain has alot of strengths that make him annoying to deal with and an all-around good pick. But he also has some glaring weaknesses which is why you never see him in LCS or on any top 5 mid lane lists.

    Lane Bully - Swain has strong targeted poke that is medium range and has fairly low cooldowns. He can heavily punish csing with these abilities, especially against melee mid laners. And can sustain his mana pool with his passive.
    AOE CC - While his W did get nerfed a while back, it should be back to around full strength by the time teamfights roll around and you have a few points in W. His AOE root is extremely good for locking down mutiple members in a teamfight, especially when they are sieging turrets or running into choke points. It has a moderate range and a short delay to get used to, but can be a great pick tool when used correctly, or just follow up on other cc such as a blitz or thresh hook to ensure a kill.
    Lane Sustain- Once level 6 rolls around, even if you are losing lane or having a rough time, you can turn the lane into a farm fest by sustaining any harass taken with your ult. Granted, you don't really want to be in a farm lane since you are a lane bully, but if you are against a counter pick or had it rough early against a now-snowballed assassin, you'll have to take what you can get, and a farm lane is better than a feed lane. Your ult will keep you from basing every time you take harass to avoid getting all-inned, and can delay your lane until you get your core items and can deal with almost anybody.
    Raidboss Status- Given the nature of Swains kit, he transforms into a drain tank that still does tons of aoe and single target damage. This is incredibly hard to deal with especially in solo que. The enemy team cannot ignore you, or you will slowly destroy everyone while sustaining your health until you eventually run out of mana, but if they focus you you can forestall your judgement with your large health pool combined with your ult healing. Once the poor bastards are about to take you down, you can pop your zhonyas and enjoy the look of horror on their faces as you heal back to half health while in stasis. Odds are they switched focus off of you during your zhonyas in lue of standing there looking stupid till you are attackable again, so you should get a solid 2-3 more seconds to heal up a bit and lay down another round of spells on their squishies.
    Build Path - Swain has a very forgiving and versatile build path. While I stress the importance of getting ROA and Zhonyas as soon as possible, The nature of swain's kit allows for him to be extremely flexible with his build. 99% of games rushing ROA then Zhonyas is the best decision, but after that you can mold your build into whatever is going to be most annoying for your opponents. Fed AF and wanna continue to wreck everyone's **** while relying on Zhonyas active to keep you alive and well? Grab a Deathcap and a Void staff and go to town, your healing scales with how much damage you deal anyway. Enemy team is all ad except for the lux support? Get a Frozen heart and a Rylais, Mana is nice anyway. Team has an Ap top,jg, and mid? Spirit visage and abyssal are your friends. Wanna be a ****? Guardian Angel. (Note, If you die with your ult on, when you revive from guardian angel your ult will be turned off and go on an 8 second cooldown. This means that YOU MUST TURN YOUR ULT OFF BEFORE YOU DIE or guardian angel will be pretty much useless for you.)
    He Can Deal With Fed People- Much like assassins, Swain is very good at dealing with that one fed guy on the enemy team that keeps carrying teamfights. Unlike assassins, Swain does not rely on burst damage to get the job done. That means that if the fed person has heal or a Maw/Steriks or dodges Zed's Q and survives the burst, GG, but if you are swain, you just keep wailing on the guy with your sustained damage until he goes down. Your E amplifies all of your other damage, and you do a large amount of sustained unavoidable damage combined with meduim cooldown CC. Even if the fed guy takes you down in the end, you can rest assured that your ult crows, your laserbird, you e DOT, and your ignite should be enough to take down the menace. And if it isnt then the game is prob over or you are 1/6 and cant kill anyone
    Mobility - Swain has 2 main weaknesses and this isnt one of them. Ya you read that right. Swain has no gap closers, no dashes, no escapes, no nothing, but thats ok as long as you remember to play around it. Before 6 you need to ward and watch your positioning, and after 6 you need to know how many people you can deal with solo and also watch your positioning. You are relatively tanky and not the person a team wants to focus so your lack of mobility is more forgiving than on someone like an adc, but it is still a weakness but can be covered up with smart play and positioning.
    Waveclear - This is the first of Swain's main weaknesses. Swain is **** at csing under tower, and has absolutely no waveclear pre 6. post 6 you can kind of waveclear with your ult on and your w, but it takes a ton of mana and isnt even fast. The problem with this is twofold. In lane, you get shoved in and miss a ton of cs verses picks such as viktor, anivia, azir, lux , kayle, etc who just shove you into tower and watch as you get 1-2 cs per wave. Not to mention you usually get harassed under tower while unable to return harass because you are busy trying to get any minions you can. The second weakness is mostly taken advantage of in higher elo, and is a flaw pointed out often in the LCS about kassadin mid. It is very easy to take your ADC or jg mid and siege down a turret verses swain early in the game, leaving him without a tower and opening up the map to the enemy team, and there is pretty much nothing swain can do about it without the help of his team.
    Mana Issues - This is Swain's second major weakness, and is the big one to worry about. Swain's ult starts off at a flat 25 mana per second, and increases by 7 mana per second per second that it is on, meaning that in extended teamfights, swain is likely to run out of mana very early on in the fight. He relies on blue buff to sustain him during teamfights, and without it is at a severe disadvantage. There is some relief, however. Building items such as ROA provides swain with a large mana pool to work with, and his passive provides him 9% of his maximum mana on champion kill or assist, which can help him keep going in teamfights. It still is very limiting on his teamfight ability, and in tankier metas where teamfights go on forever swain has extreme issues. His ult can be toggled off in teamfights to reset the mana cost, but keep in mind it goes on an 8 second cooldown which can really screw you over. Do this while chasing or kiting in and out of the fight.
    Grievous Wounds - Swain is a drain tank, meaning he relies heavily on healing as his form of psudo-tankiness. Grievous Wounds cuts this in half, making him much less tanky and much easier to kill. That being said, most people at lower elos dont bother building morello or that AD item that gives grievous wounds unless it is in their typical build path, so the only thing you really need to worry about is ignite. Generally speaking, you'll see 1, at most 2 ignites in a game. If you are lucky and go against a ***** mid laner who takes barrior or TP, then you likely dont have anything to worry about. If they do take it, however, you just need to be ready to work around it. Once you have your zhonyas, even if you get ignited every teamfight, you can use that time to zhonyas, and by the time you are out of stasis the grievous wounds will be gone. That dosnt mean to automatically zhonyas if you are ignited, dont be stupid. If you are full health just deal with it and save zhonyas for when you are low and wanna ******** someone.
    Ganks - Swain is kinda susceptible to ganks. What I mean by kinda is that it depends on who your lane opponent is, who the jungler is, and what point of the game it is. Pre-6 any combination of champions with hard cc and a moderate amount of damage is bad news for swain, unless you already bullied your opponent down to 1/4 hp and thats why he is being ganked for. This happens more often than you would believe, and bait it out and kill the laner with your DOTs, they wont expect it. Post 6 unless they have a fair amount of burst, you can usually deal with a gank and possibly 2v1 depending on how well you are doing. If they dont have enough damage to deal with your ult heal then you can spam laugh while you kill them both (granted you dont run out of mana and die), but if they have some burst damage you may be able to scrape by with a 1 for 1 but depending on how out of position you are you may just die. The problem with Ganks for swain is that he has the potential to gain a large lead off of his good laning phase and even pick up a few solo kills, but an early gank or 2 can completely ruin his laning phase and set him behind in terms of power for mid game team fights. It is important, for this reason, to ward and not get carried away with harassing to the point that you dont notice you are getting ganked. Poking down both of your opponents potions and half of their health means nothing if you then get ganked and die with both your potions untouched.

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Laning with Swain can be broken down into 4 different times with 3 different categories based on your lane opponent. The times and categories are as follows, level 1, level 2, level 3-5, level 6+ , Melee champs, Counter picks, everyone else.
Here is the breakdown of pretty much every scenario.

Level 1:
Melee champs:
Harass the **** out of him. But dont get crazy. Melee champs are easy to punish because you know EXACTLY where they need to be in order to get a cs. Start E and throw it on them whenever it comes off cooldown, but dont get crazy. Do it when they go for a cs, dont just press E on them and chase them halfway down the lane trying to hit em with it.
In addition to this throw in autos on them when they go for cs. This is especially important when you have you E on them, as it amplifies your damage making your autos sting even more. but dont get crazy. Remember that autoing them will aggro minions on you, so after 1-2 autos you should back off to get the minion aggro off of you. If you fail to do this you will take more harass from minions than you dished out. Poking is honestly more important than cs in melee matchups tbh because it can set you up for an easy level 2 or 3 and complete lane control.

Counter Picks:

This may be the one time you are even with them, depending on the counter pick. Throw down the Es when you can, but try to do it at times when they cant answer with poke of their own, since most of your counterpicks have long ranged poke of their own. Against counter picks you probably dont want to auto harass at all because that leave you vulnerable for them to hit you with whatever abilities make them a counter to you. TL;DR, limit the harass to ocassional Es when you can fit them in without taking return fire.

Everyone else:
Try to get a pushing lead so that you dont get trapped under tower for the first few minutes of the lane. Once your melee minions die you can get an E or 2 on your opponent when they go to cs the caster minions. Weaving in autos depends on the opponent, but if they have any type of poke you shouldnt do more than a single auto otherwise they will answer your E poke with poke of their own. Try to be the first to level 2

Level 2:

Melee champs:

Ok now its time to put em down. Hopefully if you did your job level 1 they will be around half health and chugging potions already. Dont let the potions get time to work. Lay down the E Q and go to work with your autos. The Q slow will allow you to fit a few more in before you need to back off due to minions. Their potions will not have healed them yet so they should be pretty low and you can zone them off of cs and xp until their potions heal them back up. Dont zone too hard or you may get ganked and screw up your lane, but definitely keep them off of the caster minions and if they fail to respect you E Q them again and you may be able to kill them level 2. Dont be in too much of a rush though, once level 3 rolls around you can have your way with them.

Counter Picks:

Its time to start playing like a *****. From this point forward they are called counter picks for a reason, and trading with them is strictly forbidden. If they go for harass first, and miss, then you may throw in and E Q. Other than that focus on dodging their harass and csing. Try to auto the wave a bit to avoid getting stuck under tower as best you can.

Everyone else:

Level 2 is a fairly strong point for Swain. Look for times to land E into Q and a few autos when they go to last hit. Be careful of them trading back, but if you have an Hp advantage dont be afraid of extended trades since you will likely come out better off thanks to the damage amplification on your E. Beware of getting too low since you have no burst but can be easily killed by burst. Get as much poke in as you can and prepare for level 3

Level 3-5:

Melee Champs:

Once you hit 3 its time to finish them off. Wait for them to go for a cs a bit outside of tower range, then lead with Q this time. Use the Q slow to get in range to land a W root on them, then immediately E and ignite them and lay down a few autos. If they were below half before the trade started this should kill them. Regardless of if it did or not, use your lane control to zone them off of cs levels 3-5, and harass them off of cs with EQ and potentially set up kills as before if they are low enough.