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Art of War, an in-depth Swain Guide (Season 7)
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Threats & Synergies
Pre-6, you need to respect Yasuo's cooldowns, which are lower than yours by quite a margin. The positioning of your Q is everything: you either use it to farm and step away to respect his zone (which means he'll shove), or you cast Q into the melee minions, meaning he'll be forced to move into your wave and take creep damage or respect the Q zoning. Whatever you do, just make sure you get to level 6 without dying and, whenever your ult is on CD, manage yourself with care.
Kata's mobility makes Q harass somewhat complicated, but you still have E, auto attacks, and you can use W to force Kata into more favorable directions. However, her ultimate deals less damage per second now, so if you pop yours and run you should be able to survive. Post 6, you can be much more aggressive.
Leblanc is a pretty strong laner, and her damage needs to be respected, especially pre-6. Farm mostly with Q, don't worry about giving her space so she can't harass with W Q and, above all, mind the chain, which now deals retarded amounts of damage. Post 6, play much more aggressively and be careful whenever your ult is on a cooldown.
Ahri is literally an even matchup for Swain. Early screwups and she will snowball on you till doomsday, but if she missteps you can eat her alive. You need to sidestep very carefully and avoid eating all her Qs and charms. In fights with ultimates, consider your HP and the benefits of fighting around enemy creeps so your ult gives you more hp.
Xerath is dangerous due to the sheer amount of poke he has. However, if you do things right you can poke back with Q, or at least farm with relative safety. Consider using W when he's charging Q, which facilitates more harassing or even killing him (don't forget his E stone tho)
Syndra embodies everything Swain hates: hard poke, burst, constant dps, cc and kites monstruously. This is not to say you can't harass her or even catch her offguard, however you need to be CONSTANTLY moving and mind her gigantic ultimate damage.
Azir is another obscenely dangerous pick. You can farm the ranged minions and harass him in the process, however expect to be grossly outharrassed and outmaneuvered. Capitalize on his mistakes the best you can, otherwise just farm safely.
Lissandra is an easy laner to deal with: her range is close to yours, you can deal a lot of damage while, if moving correctly, barely taking any in return, and her E can be stopped with a well positioned W or Q. However, Lissandra poses one issue: she has an amazing setup potential for ganks, which means you need to ward properly and be mindful of how much damage the jungler can bring into the equation.
Akali is no amazing laner still, but she has pretty decent sustain and her pool can save her from Decrepify, effectively cutting short your damage. The most important thing, besides playing very aggressively early, is to give Akali space whenever your ult is on cooldown.
Orianna has pretty good utility, damage and mobility, but you can farm safely against her, provided you don't grossly misposition. Post 6, you can outdamage her in a wave with minions.
Zed is very dangerous, however his ult can be prevented with a well cast W. Harass with Q, farm properly, be careful with his early game harass.
An Anivia lane is pretty much a farm lane nowadays. It's relatively complicated to kill her as Swain as long as the passive is up. Dodge her Q, respect the E-R harass and you're fine. Careful with wall gank setups.
Annie is relatively easy to play around because of her predictability. W and Q should always keep her at bay, and if she flashes post-6 activating your R (depending how much into the game you're in) should keep you alive.
Brand lane is a poke war, mostly. Doding his W is fulcral, which means you should not navigate in your minion wave. In fact, this is the best advice against brand, using your minions as a shield and dodging W and E. Post-6, the important thing is making sure you don't get hit by all the ult bounces.
Kassadin versus Swain is another lane that is mostly about farming. You can harass him a lot pre-6, and post 6 none of you should be able to kill each other, unless one of you makes a gigantic mistake or runs out of mana.
Talon isn't inherently dangerous to Swain, although this demands you don't get hit by all his W procs. The problem with Talon is the amount of mobility and roam potential this champion packs, meaning you need to ward properly in order to avoid your team from getting caught off-guard.
Laning versus Twisted Fate is never an issue, really, unless you grossly missposition or eat all the Q harass. In fact, you can play aggressively and force him to farm from a distance with relative ease. Your only concern is a flash gold card (stun) in case he is seting up a gank. The issue against Twisted Fate, really, is the snowball potential that comes with his ultimate. If you waveclear and pressure the midlane greatly, that's already a decent deterrent, but ultimately warding into both sides of the river and your team respecting his ultimate will decide whether or not the champion heavily snowballs.
This is another even-matched lane, determined mostly by jungler performance and wether or not you get hit by every single E. At the first two levels, Viktor should have the advantage, thanks to his shield on Q. A good Viktor will try to use this in his favor, so you should respect that and move further behind your caster minions, so that if he harasses you they focus him, the lane gets pushed and he takes free damage. At level 3 and onwards, start abusing your Q and always be mindful of his E. Post 6, you can be much more aggressive, especially if there's minions to fight around.
Ziggs is at the edge of being a hard matchup, but his squishyness and the fact that, if caught, you can easily kill him, make up for that. Early game his poke will feel unbearable and he'll push like crazy. Farm the best you can and see if there's no way you can catch him with W (or save it if your jungler is ganking). Post-6, you should be zoning him with threats of walking up to the guy, ult on. This means you should feel relatively free to stand between Ziggs and his minion wave, provided you don't get poked down.
Ekko is a very tricky matchup.Although the guy is melee, his extreme mobility and the AoE shield with an inbuilt stun can turn the tide or allow him a free passive proc in-lane with little to no dispute from you. Still, your Q should be cutting his options short and forcing the guy to decide between farming and harassing. Always be mindful whenever he is out of sight: this usually means he'll either cast the AoE stun and try to dive in, or that he's ganking a sidelane. Post 6, unless either of you makes a stupid mistake, neither should be killing each other. Your best hope is to get him low, trap him on W, and killing him before he can ult away (which, all in all, is pretty hard to do).
Lux is more annoying than a danger in lane, provided you understand when it's time to go back. She will be constantly trying to do what you do: poke while getting damage into minions so as to facilitate farming. This means the harass-into-farming can go both ways. Besides, when Lux hits E she'll often try to proc the passive (getting a thunderlord's proc in the process), giving you a chance to trap her on W. The most important in this matchup is to be mindful of Q, her bind. This is what usually allows Lux to either terminate her targets (with ult) or to get A LOT of damage in (passive proc, then hitting E and another passive proc). What you do is be careful as you walk behind your minions, so as to avoid getting hit by the Q splash, farm the ranged minions with Q (while hitting her in the process) and move around A LOT.
Heimer is an extremely annoying solo laner due to how he can mill down people's hp all the while shoving relentlessly. You can farm most of a minion wave under tower without much stress and, post 6, it's not too hard forcing him to pop one of his ultimates, giving you a chance to re-engage with your ult up while his is down, forcing him out of lane or flat out killing the guy. Do respect his RQ (giant turret) though, it deals obscene amounts of damage.
Fizz used to be a relatively easy matchup for Swain but, with the recent focus on Q, a good Fizz can dish out great amounts of free damage if he uses his mobility to his advantage. As such, you should be spending most of your lane phase farming minions with Q (ranged for the wave, melee to try and harass him in the process), throwing Es into his face and saving W for when the guy tries to use his E away or into you. Post-6, Fizz, even with ignite, should not be able to kill you in a single rotation unless he already killed someone. This means if you play aggressively and don't get outpoked you can come out on top.
Aurelion Sol isn't a complicated champ to deal with in lane, especially for Swain. His desire to go in on you with the stun or passive can be countered with Q and W and, post 6, his costant DPS is mitigated by your constant healing + DPS. The big difficulty here, really, is keeping him in lane, because Aurelion Sol has great roaming potential. Always make sure to ward the river and keep track of when he dies/recalls, which often gives the dragon a chance at gaking a sidelane.
Cassiopeia is a nightmare, always was and always will be. A good Cass can poke you down as early as level 1, she thrives versus champs with less range than her and she can regain her mana pretty easily by last hitting with E. The good news is that Cass is pretty damn squishy and you can disengage with a well positioned Q and W. Because most Cassiopeia's take Ghost and Flash, post-6 you have a good chance of killing her in an all in if you ignite her and fight with minions around, getting most off of the healing. Still, it's advised that you Q poke her a bit first. Other than that, move around in lane as much as you can and respect her DPS.
Hello, I'm FalseoGod (SaltyChocobo on EUW) and welcome to my guide for the Noxian Lord of Cannibalism, Swain!
I have written this guide ever since I picked up Swain in season 2 and instantly fell in love. Although I play a lot of champions because I tire easy of doing the same thing again and again, he is always my go to option and I have a very extensive understanding of how he works. In fact, every Elo journey I have taken has been led by him.
This being a guide, I am offering more than just a cheat sheet: below you can find the reasoning behind the options I showed, alternatives, as well as all sorts of important information like how to lane or decisions to make during teamfights. I hope you like your read and feel free to ask any questions!
+ Constant AoE DPS;
+ Nice crowd control (a slow and an AoE snare);
+ Inbuilt sustain with ultimate;
+ Tanky nature;
+ Good snowball potential;
- Low mobility and medium range;
- Lack of burst compared to other midlaners;
- Early game can be a struggle;
- Quite mana hungry during teamfights;
- Struggles versus comps with high disengage and healing/shields;
WHEN SHOULD I PICK SWAIN?
As a counterpick: Lane advantage is always a good thing to have, even if it just means you can lane with above-average ease. Check the matchups list to guide yourself through picks. Just remember that counterpicking doesn't mean you win automatically, so make sure to play strategically!
Your team can use a frontliner that deals good damage: Swain can take a lot of punishment and dish out a lot of damage. He is not ideal for a poke comp (teams that deal a lot of damage with harass without actually forcing a fight), but he is good in teamfight-oriented teams, dive comps (teams that attack even under enemy tower), pick comps (teams that use their mobility and CC to separate one enemy team member from the rest).
Aggressive ganking junglers: Swain's early game isn't amazing against various different champions, but he has decent CC and great damage to followup or initiate allied ganks! Look for aggressive junglers like Lee Sin, Elise, Kha'Zix, Olaf, Jarvan IV, Vi,...
A mage that doesn't fade lategame If played to his fullest, Swain becomes more of a threat the longer each match lasts. If you make sure you don't get popped by the opposition's first rotation, you can soak up and dish large amounts of damage.
Pretty much a must have to nearly all league champs. This spell offers both extra safety and extra playmaking potential. It allows you to instantly blink in the direction of your cursor.
A good pick for midlaners, especially those who are supposed to be in range to use this summoner spell. It deals true damage over 5 seconds and reduces healing effects.
Low cooldown and the fact that it's great at setting up ganks/engages or dodging enemy ganks/engages makes Ghost an option on-par with ignite. Gives increased movement speed over time.
Good against lanes where you have low kill potential/they have high poke (high range mages like Lux and Xerath. Allows you to recall and still attempt to keep up on farm and experience. Also good for gank setups on sidelanes or to counteract enemy teleports, just make sure you're teleporting into a salvageable situation
Don't forget you can abuse the movement speed boost from base to teleport into the enemy team at high velocity from midgame onwards.
I consider Exhaust pretty niche but still relevant in some matchups where you don't think Ignite or Ghost will be more useful (or versus a combination of jungler + mid matchup).
Some examples would be mid Yasuo (who might also have Exhaust) combined with a very menacing jungler (namely Lee Sin, or the rare but extremely dangerous mid Riven. Lategame, exhaust still has value against their highest dps targets or to save your adc.
Cleanse is great versus a few select matchups that depend on their CC setup to kill you ( Annie/ Syndra, not bad versus Ahri). It starts to become vital when their jungler also depends on CC to setup a kill ( Fiddlesticks/ Elise) or when the enemy team has a large AoE CC setup comp. Combined with zhonya, you can seriously dampen their cooldowns and survive the engage. Don't forget this spell removes the damage from Ignite.
Although Thunderlord's Decree is pretty easy to pull off with Swain, the added lane pressure doesn't always translate into a won lane/kills. Besides, as the game progresses the deficit in damage between Deathfire Touch (which Swain constantly refreshes and applies on the enemy team) and Thunderlord's Decree will become much more evident.
You can still get thunderlord's on Swain, but this is probably the most optimal rune page.
- You want to go 12 Utility because of
, all of which are great options when paired with what you'd get from 12 points in Defense.
- Feast versus
is mostly a decision of whether you'll need the extra lane sustain or can afford to provide an AoE damage increase for the team. Feast does synergize better with
- Natural talent's stat increase, even if unimpressive, still beats the spellvamp that, on Swain, will always be mitigated by the fact that his damage is either AoE or over time. You can still get
versus hard matchups, to try and milk whatever extra healing you get and pair it with
. Both are rather unimpactful on Swain, really, and although the AD is someone lost on him, the AP, elevated by Rabadon and Blue Buff, will still give you extra healing and damage.
is good on Swain because, in general, you'll always be fighting for more than 5 seconds, and avoiding taking 2.5% increased damage from every single character on the enemy team helps tanking them.
is just a gamble really, there'll be games where you won't get more than 4.5% damage increase.
will be better than
mostly because you're not getting that many resistances and this will end up giving you more sustain during lane phase.
- Insight versus Fearless is mostly a matter of Fearless only giving a bonus for 2 seconds, while Insight is bringing much more value to the table ( Flash is up much more often, and your secondary summoner spell is also there sooner).
This is a standard rune setting for Swain, although I use various rune pages just for him. Full magic penetration marks are great now that you spend a lot of time harassing with Q and E, although there are alternatives.
The greater Quintessence is there for obvious reasons (damage), plus you have pretty decent scalings on full damage Q, E and W is also decent. All AP scallings are also indirectly improved against the target hit by torment (+20% damage). Scaling health is there to accompany your lane opponent's damage growth, allowing you bigger bulk by the time you reach level 6.
Scalling CDR Glyphs are surprisingly good against many matchups because of how less interactive/exposed Swain is now, allowing you to Q harrass and farm without giving several midlaners much space to poke back if you move well. You use them because you shouldn't be overcapping CDR (35% with Visage and Zhonya) and this allows you to be less punishable for having used ult to farm or to follow on an engage that got canceled (yours or enemy team's), while simultaneously giving the rest of your kit faster rotations.
Greater Seal Armor
These are great against Zed or Talon, and can also be used against Yasuo or other AD matchups that appear. They provide you with extra resistances to endure the occasional harass that you failed to dodge and to abate their level 6 kill potential. Plus, lethality's armor penetration, already not as impressive as flat armor pen, will be even less effective against you at earlier stages of the game, when you really need to survive.
Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power
Good versus easy matchups that don't really require magic resistance. These make your power spike harder further into level 6, when you can finally become brutally aggressive. Favor only if you really prefer AP to CDR, although optimally Scaling CDR runes are better on Swain for faster rotations which translates into more damage in longer teamfights.
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
This is an option you take against high threat midlaner or medium-high threat midlaners with an AP jungler. Note that these aren't obligatory in a 1v1 scenario, you can play against countering midlaners without them because that means they'll shove you into tower, giving you more space to farm and get to 6 without an excess risk of dying. It's 100% up to your confidence really, but should be considered against high poke midlaners who also have an AP jungler/easy dive jungler because otherwise it'll be easier for them to lower you to the point where the tower won't save you from getting dived.
PASSIVE: CARRION RENEWAL
Basically, killing an enemy unit (minions, monsters and champions) grants you mana.
- Paired with a Doran's Ring, you can spam your abilities quite freely before you obtain Ravenous Flock, provided you last hit with some efficiency. Pay attention to your mana bar and try not to let it go bellow the 1/3rd threshold (unless of course you're getting a kill).
- Decrepify, at higher levels, can destroy the ranged minions with ease, restoring a nice amount of its cost thanks to this passive. In fact, using abilities for farming is less punishing for you as long as they die to your damage.
- Post-6, you need to be careful how you use your mana as Ravenous Flock devours your mana pool. Use this passive to help you restore your pool.
- In fights, pay close attention to your mana and, if running low, see if you can still fight with your ult turned off. Kills and assists will also regenerate a large chunk of mana, allowing you to turn your ult back on.
Swain's crow Beatrice is sent to target direction and deals damage to single targets inside a wide area, slowing them in the process. If there's no target available, the crow will stay for it's duration and will hit any viable target that comes close.
- On cast, this spell will focus champions first. Which means that if you send it in the direction of an enemy champion with minions nearby, the champion will suffer damage until they move out of Decrepify's range, and then it'll change into the minions. If the champion goes back in, Decrepify will not change back until the champion is either hit by Torment or the minion dies.
- Decrepify deals double damage to minions. This means that, at higher ranks, you can use it to easily kill two or even three caster minions with a single cast, and it's also a great tool to help you farm under the tower.
- Try to cast it a little closer to the target than its maximum range. This will help you setup Nevermove or get a free Torment. Either way, it'll get extra damage ticks in rather than allowing them to move out unscathed.
- This ability can scout brushes, meaning that when you cast in on an area where you lack vision (brushes included) it'll show if there's any visible champion inside, as well as Control Ward or blue trinkets. Invisible/camouflaged champions will not be revealed.
- If you hit Nevermove, immediately pop this with Torment so you'll get the most damage from it's duration.
- At higher ranks, this ability is a great tool to peel melee champs from you or your allies.
After a short delay, enemy units in target area take damage and are rooted (meaning they can't move or use abilities that would move them out; they can still auto-attack).
- This spell requires a bit of prediction, but it can also be cast after Decrepify for an easier hit or as a followup to a team mate's CC.
- Nevermove can be used to deny CS from your enemy laner by casting it as they move to farm (otherwise they'll risk taking damage from you. In fact, Decrepify deals obscene damage if it gets the full duration in).
- Always try to have the enemy champion close to the center of the ability, with the largest remaining area of the spell in the direction they're going. For example, if they're running away from you, you cast this with the larger portion of the AoE in front of them, but always with some behind them, in case they decide to walk backwards.
You can also force opponents into choke points where this can hit them with more ease. In midlane, per example, both river entrances create choke points in their edges, so if you can come from the side it'll force them into a smaller escape area. Towers can also work as choke points. Enemies closer to towers have less directions they can run towards.
- Cast it to peel yourself from ganks, to enable ganks, followup on CC, peel your allies, etc. An example would be in case you're getting ganked by a melee gap closer such as Xin Zhao: consider using this AFTER they reached you (in case they flash over it to reach you). Simply cast it on top of you after they dashed, followed by Decrepify, and run towards your freedom. The same applies to allies: it's generally better to wait for the enemy champion to spend their mobility spell and THEN get them snared.
- If you're zoned, you may use this to last hit minions that are too close to the enemy champion now and then, in case your Q is already on cooldown.
- You can use this on a pushing minion wave early game to temporarily stop it from moving, so it doesn't get to your tower before your allied wave does (lane freezing). If you're going for this tactic, make sure the minions aren't bellow 1/2 hp or this ability will deal too much damage and the freeze won't take place.
Mid game, it can be used as a nuke to waveclear with Ravenous Flock and Decrepify.
Swain's lategame high damage spell. Deals over time damage and amplifies ALL damage from him (except Ignite) by a fixed percentage.
- Torment changes the target of Decrepify to whoever his affected by it. This means that, in teamfights, you'll always want to try and hit a squishy target with both abilities, since E will increase Q damage exponentially and, obviously, these effects are more felt by those with less tank stats.
- While farming under tower early game, remember that Torment damage isn't felt immediately and it increases you auto-attack damage by a bit. So, as you try to manage the creeps, always make sure you cast it before auto-ing.
- In lane, whenever you cast Q to harass and your lane adversary disengages, consider tossing in a Torment if they misposition or are back inside Decrepify range: the raven will change target to your opponent once again. You can also consider casting it in a wave with a cannon minion, hitting the cannon so it's easier to farm it using just spells.
- This spell has a 1.0 scaling with AP, and the fact that it increases damage from Swain to the target also potentiates the AP scalling of your remaining abilities. This means a lot of flat AP on Swain is pretty damn good.
- Rylai's Crystal Scepter applies a 20% slow for 1 second with every tick. This makes it easier to land Decrepify and Nevermove and permaslow your targets with Ravenous Flock.
R: RAVENOUS FLOCK
Swain's unmistakable ultimate: up to five different enemy unites will be hit by damage dealing ravens every second. Swain will heal for a fixed amount depending on how many targets he hits and whether or not they are champions (meaning the healing isn't mitigated by resistances).
- Pre-emptively cast this if you see some CC or hard engage coming your way. Only you can cancel Ravenous Flock by either pressing R or running out of mana, which means disables (stuns, silences, etc) won't take you out of your ult but. The pre-emptive cast is a way to prevent getting caught without the ultimate on, which could otherwise mean your death once the CC cleared.
- In skirmishes/teamfights ALWAYS pay attention to your mana pool because of the increasing mana cost. If you need to stop your ultimate due to low mana (aproximately 1/4th and lower), fall back until there's either only one enemy is at range (or if the fight went poorly just get out) and focus on that target. If you get a kill or assist on them, Carrion Renewal will allow you to re-engage due to the mana recovery.
- Works with Zhonya's Hourglass's active, which means you still deal damage and heal yourself for as long as there are targets around. This means that, for 2.5 seconds, you will be able to deal damage with Ravenous Flock, regain health due to your ult's self-healing and be unnable to take any damage.
- In lane, try to fight your opponent with minions around so you get extra healing sources. However, do not spam it, because assassins like Diana or Zed will be able to use the down time against you.
- People often forget Swain's ultimate damage AND healing scale with AP. What this means is that, although he benefits from tanky stats, Swain becomes truly monstrous with a lot of AP, since he will deal more R damage and will heal for a larger amount of HP.
SKILL PICK AND LEVELING ORDER
This section is more about how to chain together or user your abilities for maximum synergy rather than flat out giving you an ability order that has to be followed for specific results. More than having a flat playstyle, it's good that you can understand the ability interactions and use them in ways that start feeling natural.
These two connect really well regardless of how you used them. Decrepify at late ranks can help you setup for a Nevermove, allowing you to deal massive amounts of damage or have your team catch up with your enemy. However, as soon as you hit a Nevermove with Q off cooldown, your reflex should ALWAYS be to throw in a Decrepify on to of them (and then E and R), because this means you'll make the most out of Decrepify's damage.
Even during lanephase, if you hit W you can throw in a Q while barely exposing yourself to receiving damage from your opponent.
Q + W also work great to quickly clear the back of a minion wave without exposing yourself to harass.
The thing about Torment is that it increases all damage from you. At early levels, even with not many points on Torment or Nevermove, hitting one after the other works as a small nuke and allows for further harass with other abilities, or simply leaving a Decrepify while you fall back. Torment also helps setting up Nevermove against people who are already weary of your damage: they'll generally try to run FROM you (often with weird angles to facilitate dodging your AoE snare), which means you can push them into choke points, like a tower, to get an easy W. If they move towards you to dodge it, you can get a much stronger Decrepify into position while your R is hitting and draining them.
This is the main reason why Swain can become really scary, especially when fed: the options for the opponent start thinning out, since at both long and close range you can setup for a lot of damage.
Early game, this combo isn't as dangerous as late game, where you have amassed enough AP to seriously damage most enemy champions. Still, the idea is really simple: as soon as you hit W, you pop on R, throw a Q and an E and move to your target's side, making sure that your ult still damages them if they try to get away.
During your early lanephase, this combo is only recommended when your target lost at least 1/3 HP, since it'll most likely force them out of lane or, at least, put them at bay with a potion regenerating the damage you caused. When they move out, pop your ult off and regenerate some mana with your passive. If they're at 1/2HP, don't be afraid to commit and kill them (adding Ignite for good measure), or force them to recall. Throwing Torment before Decrepify is mainly because this way you can cause more damage AND decrepify cancels torment's animation.
In lane, try doing this as close to enemy minions as possible, to heal off of multiple targets.
This is the one true core item for Swain, although some might argue that Hextech GLP-900 also fits for the slot (discussed further below).
What you need to keep in mind is this Swain is a frontline mage, he is supposed to take and dish damage. He requires HP, a pretty decent mana pool, ability power and benefits from a few tanky stats, which is what differentiates him from most midlaners really.
Still, don't overkill on the tankyness: Swain uses AP for all his damage and healing, and that's where your focus should lie.
STARTING ITEMS AND FIRST RECALLS
- Always start Doran's Ring. Combined with Decrepify, it allows you to CS the back of a minion wave with much more ease and regain mana with doran and Swain's passive while harassing your lane opponent if they position close to it. Its stats are just too good to start with anything else.
- NEVER GO BACK TO LANE WITH A Sapphire Crystal. If you can't buy Catalyst of Aeons on your first recall, get a Dark Seal and a Refillable Potion, with priority for Ruby Crystal (that will be upgraded for a catalyst later), all of this for added tankyness, sustain and damage. You can also buy tier 1 boots, but only if there's absolutely no other option. The flat mana from Sapphire Crystal is completely irrelevant pre-6, and even post 6 it won't be enough for you to go around with R on indefinitely.
- Finish Rod of Ages as soon as possible, so you start stacking the passive faster. Wrap boots up second so you can stay on-par with most of the movement speed on the map; Swain already has no mobility and isn't extremely hard to kite.
- Zhonya's Hourglass's stats aren't as good as they used to be and the active has an increased cooldown, but it's still a pretty good item on Swain as a second or third slot. The disengage is incredible versus various high burst ults (fizz, lux, syndra, veigar, vel'koz), allows you to dodge hard engages or to sustain AFTER being engaged on, tower diving, etc. Just look at Swain stats and builds everywhere and you'll notice this item is quite often featured because it's just so good on him.
Thing is, because Swain is often in the heat of battle, he will often become a target to the enemy's primary CC tools, meaning stronger skillshots will be aimed at him. This means that, say, a Leona can setup a Vel'Koz ult with more ease, while other ranged mages might be just far away that they don't care about these situations. Thus, Zhonya's Hourglass becomes precious in these moments, because you can simply disengage against various sorts of AoE ultimates or sources of damage, all the while healing and dealing damage with your ultimate.
You can also attempt really aggressive plays, like flashing into the enemy team to get a good Nevermoveengage, and save this active to keep yourself from being instantly destroyed.
- Rabadon's Deathcap is an amazing second or third item versus teams running little magic resistance. If they do have MRES, consider a Liandry's Anguish: its passive procs on every single Swain ability (even his ult, meaning you're getting it in up to three targets).
Rabadon also highly increases Swain's damage output and self-healing. If you are really ahead and do not fear enemy burst, you can buy this as your second item for a great boost to your overall survivability and damage.
- Void Staff is important as a third to fifth item, depending on how your enemy team stacked magic resistance and whether or not you got Liandry first. Keep checking your enemy team's items and start building this as soon as you spot relevant magic resist on the map, you don't want to be buying void staff after your opponents are already ignoring a good chunk of your ability power.
Speaking of penetration, Liandry's Anguish is also a great item because it synergizes greatly with DoT champions (the passive refreshes constantly on DoT) and Swain has a lot of CC to make sure he gets the most of it. Think of it as a 3rd to 5th item slot, depending on the enemy team's tankyness.
- Spirit Visage is a good fourth to sixth item on Swain versus a AP heavy comp (midlane and jungler and/or top) or to round up your tankyness and survivability midgame. It increases self-healing, gives HP and tanky stats, all of which are good on Swain. However, this item isn't good as a followup to Rod of Ages because you will not have a lot of AP (damage) to justify this sudden increase in tankyness, nor do you have Rod of Ages stacked to the point where you can stay with your ultimate on for a long time.
Note: Abyssal Scepter is outclassed by Spirit Visage on Swain most of the time after the third item slot, since Visage's healing increase surpasses Abyssal's poor +60AP.
- Abyssal Mask is a followup to Rod of Ages versus a double AP comp or if you're against an aggressive assassin against whom you prefer this to Zhonya's Hourglass. What this means is that zhonya can have you dodge hard engages and things like Fizz ultimate, which usually wins you the fight against him at earlier stages of the game; Abyssal would be better against something like Diana or LeBlanc or versus an AP midlaner and AP jungler.
You can get Spirit Visage afterwards if you're against a very AP-heavy comp (three relevant AP sources of damage), otherwise stick to Abyssal.
- Morellonomicon is a weird item on Swain. On one hand, it gives pretty good AP for its price (+100), mana, a mana regeneration tool that helps you teamfight along with your passive and CDR. The main issue with this item is timing and what you sacrifice for it. Because the item applies its passive with all your R procs, it could be naturally good versus high sustain teams.
Consider it as a second item versus very tanky teams where you won't need Zhonya to disengage.
Either Sorcerer's Shoes (99% of your games) or Mercury's Treads (versus AP and CC heavy teams). Ninja Tabi isn't really worth it unless you're against an absurd amount of auto-attackers and Ionian are ok if you're trying to reach the 40% CDR cap, although you'll need a Liandry or Void Staff ASAP.
Seraph's Embrace is also a decent item on Swain vs tankier comps, since it allows you to stay longer in your ult. However, it's pretty hard to stack and it leaves a void of ap of sorts between your Rod of Ages and the item that follows. If you're behind, this option will set you even further away from recovery, while if you're ahead it does not capitalize on that at all.
It can still be bought, however your damage peak will be delayed. I do not recommend this item, even if it has ok-ish viability.
Because I see a lot of people buying this in my games, I wanted to discuss why I pretty much don't consider Everfrost for Swain. First of all, just 5 minutes after being bought, Rod of Ages already has a better total stat amount than Hextech GLP-800 (not counting its passive). When fully stacked, Rod of ages far surpasses this item in terms of raw stats, yet it still costs less to build. Flat mana, flat hp and flat AP are all extremely precious on Swain, and having your first item built helping you scale better is no small feat. In fact, RoA is one of the most cost-effective items in the game because of its scalling, although not all champions use it as effectively as Swain since they don't require or use all the stats well.
Now we can discuss GLP-800's active. In my opinion, it's really underwhelming: sure, it adds damage and potentiates W and Q setup, but on the other hand it also means the enemy laner can see these abilities coming from a mile away and have more time to properly react/dodge. In fact, this active helps next to nothing in catching mobile midlaners (because they can use their mobility to disengage and ignore your setup), whereas midlaners who have no mobility (and almost all outrange you) will have more ease preparing to dodge your W and, thus, your entire engage.
Don't get me wrong, GLP-800 gives pretty nice instant stats that can help you snowball early, but Rod of Ages' usefulness is much more evident midgame. The only time I'd consider GLP-800 would be if I have a gigantic need to disengage and Swain's kit isn't enough. The Cassiopeia matchup comes to mind.
This chapter is separated into various SPOILER fields so that you may choose those you want to improve on instead of having to scour through all the information I'm providing. Many of the tips provided are Swain-specific.
This section is basically filled with tips. Teamfighting is one of the most situational events in League of Legends (depends on both teamcomps, levels, items, objectives attained, champions involved and their cooldowns, etc.) The idea itself is pretty much "(help) kill as many as possible while trying to have the least number of deaths on your side", but it's never this simple.
- Use your team's trinkets to your advantage and don't be caught off-guard. Control Ward, Farsight Alteration and Stealth Ward are key for this. Either way, if you see them coming for you and you're sure they can get the initiate on you (think Leona/Malphite ult, long-range CC), ALWAYS pre-emptively pop Ravenous Flock, because it'll allow you to heal and deal damage even if cc'd.
- If you get Zhonya's Hourglass, consider positioning much closer to the enemy backline during the fight (unless your team can't followup well or you're too behind): the active is really strong on Swain, allowing you to engage, deal damage, bait their engages and become immune to a everything while that active is working. Up until you have zhonya's, consider positioning a bit more conservatively, preferably together or by your tank's side in case he's also on tha fight;
- Remember your carry! Swain has some really good peel options versus divers and champions that jump carries (think Xin Zhao or Nocturne) in the form of Decrepify and Nevermove Sometimes, soaking damage while peeling for your ad carry is the best option. A good example is when your carry is fed, which means that if you can help keep them alive they can ramp up through the teamfight by dealing with the divers first. Position in between the diver and the rest of the enemy team, so you can simultaneously deal AoE to more targets and try to help your adc survive. This positioning also makes you an easier target to reach, which reduces the odds of your adc getting other champs to followup on that dive.
If your adc isn't doing that well or you can't reach them, you should try to be in the frontline or at the enemy backline with the rest of your team's fighters and tanks, to try and dish as much damage as possible.
- Using Nevermove well is essential: be it picking up targets (or even casting it under their tower and happily diving them with Ravenous Flock on and Zhonya's Hourglass ready to take the heat off of you) or separating engagers from their back line (the diver engages, you cast Nevermove on their backline and suddenly they're alone against you and your team). Missing Nevermove can be as harmless as not getting an engage or something as harmful as failing to peel for someone/stopping an engage, perhaps making the difference between a won or lost teamfight. Again, if you're not too confident about hitting it, try to use it as a followup of your team's remaining CC or after the enemy has cast their mobility spells.
- Keeping track of enemy cooldowns: ultimates, CC combos, mobility abilities, all of these create openings for engages that otherwise would not be possible. Likewise, this is true for your team's own cooldowns, it's often plain stupid to engage when you have major cooldowns on standby (unless of course a great opportunity arised, such as a poor engage from the enemy team or a great pick from yours).
Your major cooldowns are Ravenous Flock (sometimes you cast it pre-emptively for an enemy engage that got stopped but didn't actually create a window for your team to fight; fall back, wait for it to come back up) and Nevermove (is using it to engage/followup engages working? Should you be saving it for a particular champion of the enemy team that keeps diving you/your carry?)
- Try to keep track of how each teamfight went: if your carry played well but got dived by assassins, if you exaggerated the amount of time you exposed yourself to the enemy team and didn't back off, how well the engage went, etc. Learn from each fight and try to guarantee they'll go favorably every time. Also, make sure you're buying your items according to who's strongest on the enemy team, their main sources of damage, their resistances, etc. This means checking if them for Mres and if you got Void Staff or Liandry's Anguish to help abate it, having Zhonya's Hourglass to dodge AoE or focused damage, Spirit Visage if they have two or more good sources of AP damage, etc.
You've reached the end of my guide! I do hope you enjoy Swain as much as I do, knowing someone will be eaten alive by your DoTS before they do, tanking and dealing huge amounts of damage! Swain is not as immediate as some other mages, but he's very fun once you start to manage him.
I shall keep this updated and am completely open to questions/suggestions ;)
- Jhoijhoi for her how to make a guide guide;
- Astrolia for all the info she gave me about BBCoding that I couldn't find around or herpaderped about;
- Castermaster because I would've never been where I am with Swain (for better or worse) without his guides;
- Deluth for the criticism and suggestions;
- Xeronn for the amazing critique that helped me improve the guide's appearance and info display by 9000
- Albableat for pointing out some details and providing info to pending questions;
- Throatslasher and Polsemanden for further feedback on itemization, mastery priorities and runes to go with these options;
- Xenotechie for his review and for pointing out some details in the matchup section;
- tehAsian for his review and attention to detail;
- Teyso for more details like broken code;
- CrimsonSkyz for pointing out spelling mistakes and outdated rune names;
- TheNamelessBard for reviewing my guide;
- Utopus and Maintained for giving a great in-depth review on the guide;
- Levask for the patience and continuous feedback and support;
- Psiguard for invaluable imput that helped me break with knowledge mostly appliable to old Swain;
- VaporaDark for constant invaluable imput throughout this guide's existence (I thought I had you already);
03/06/2012 - Added the "Update" and "Twisted Treeline" chapters; Updated the items on the cheat spread and added a small Note on the "Items" chapter; added a difficulty rating to the lane opponents chapter, and reworked it's looks;
04/06/2012 - Added The "Credits" section; minor tweaks on the laning opponents chapters;
08/06/2012 - Added Draven Patch Notes and some to-be-tested details;
15-06-2012 - Updating coding and guide information thanks to Xeronn; Finished updating all sections, as well as the build;
20/06/2012 - Added abilities to each lane opponent
26/06/2012 - Corrected some silly mistakes, such as writing Mobility Boots instead of Boots as an item for facing Ahri
01/08/2012 - Added Zyra and corrected Orianna according to her recent buffs (she's op again. Don't tell anyone.)
28/08/2012 - Corrected a little code error pointed out by Xeronn and removed the "Swain got buffed" chapter since it was out of date
06/09/2012 - Reviewed important options on this guide; old options are still mentioned;
11/09/2012 - Reviewed every guide section;
21/09/2012 - Added a new chapter on itemization; Added Fizz to the lane opponents section (thanks for pointing him out BluAnimal);
29/09/2012 - More details after a review from tehAsian;
30/10/2012 - Detail feedback from Teyso;
08/12/2012 - Season 3 update;
07/01/2013 - Rebooting the guide's contents and visuals;
08/01/2013 - Finished the reboot. Added Zed to matchups. Added a matchup navigation system;
14/03/2013 - Added a table of contents;
15/03/2013 to 17/03/2013 - Updated the guide;
10/04/2013 - Edited out some items;
03/06/2013 - Edited some contents;
14/08/2013 - Changed some items content, preparing for deeper review;
11/09/2013 - Major content update, finally added Lissandra to the mid matchups;
30/10/2013 - Updated due to patch 3.13;
30/11/2013 - Preseason Update *whew*;
13/12/2013 - Sad day, Torment+ Ignite interaction removed with patch 3.15;
13/02/2014 - Updated with Xerath rework, still hardly any Swain vs Yasuo data;
04/06/2014 - Minor update with the runes on the sheet;
09/06/2014 - Yasuo added to matchup section;
13/01/2015 - Added a few notes on Morellonomicon vs Athene's;
28/01/2015 - Updated for patch 5.2;
04/02/2015 - Beginning of a visual and informational overhaul;
10/02/2015 - Major overhaul completed;
16/02/2015 - Information clarification/correction according to Utopus' review.
17/07/2015 - Patch something something update, Swain got buffed through items <3
18/12/2015 - Updated for Preseason 6;
15/01/2016 - Updated the guide visually and added content;
18/01/2016 - Added videos and GIFs to the guide;
03/03/2016 - Guide updated after Utopus' and Maintained's suggestions;
05/12/2016 - Pre-season 7 Updates;
05/12/2016 - Reviewing after Psiguard's feedback;
11/03/2017 - Reviewed the entire guide and added Dark Seal as a second buy item;