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Swain Build Guide by Vicious Skittle

Top Fear the power you do not see - In Depth Swain Guide

Top Fear the power you do not see - In Depth Swain Guide

Updated on March 20, 2019
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League of Legends Build Guide Author Vicious Skittle Build Guide By Vicious Skittle 191 7 1,126,239 Views 70 Comments
191 7 1,126,239 Views 70 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author Vicious Skittle Swain Build Guide By Vicious Skittle Updated on March 20, 2019
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-Table of Contents-

Hi, I am Vicious Skittle. I am a mid Diamond tier player on EUW whom plays every role to that standard. I've been hovering around D4-D2 since Season 4 and have consistently ended there every Season. I've written guides for more than 2 years, with my experience growing with each new one I write. My ability to play multiple roles at a decently high level makes me good at writing guides for champions across all roles. At least I like to think so.

Swain has been a champion whom I have long liked the idea of his playstyle, but never really felt like it worked the way Riot wanted it to. A battle mage who controls combat with sustained damage and healing whilst dealing damage with a tactical feel. With his rework I really feel like they captured that spirit of Swain.

Controlling fights with Vision of Empire and Nevermove whilst keeping the close range sustained damage and healing with Death's Hand and Demonic Ascension. He's no longer a "different vlad" even though ironically they look more similar than before. Overall he's really became a unique champion with this rework, both visually and gameplay wise.

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+ High lane sustain
+ Great Vision Control with Vision of Empire
+ Solid gank setups with Nevermove and Flock
+ Insane DPS if you get close enough
+ Insanely powerful ultimate

- High mana costs
- Low range
- Ultimate burst isn't instant/on demand
- Can be shut down with pressure
- Immobile
Swain has some good pros and equally punishing cons. Having high damage and innate sustain with good CC means he has drawbacks. His point blank Qs deal incredible damage, but it's really hard to get into melee range. The CC he provides is telegraphed and dashes can easily dodge it. Lane sustain is tied to CC. The ultimate is game changing, but the burst damage needs to be "unlocked" through using the drain and has a long CD. What all this means is that you need to play Swain with tact otherwise you'll basically be a worse Vladimir with a mini Lulu ult.
> > >
Passive: Ravenous Flock
Ravenous Flock
Ravenous: Swain can right-click an immobilized enemy champion to pull them towards him, ripping out a Soul Fragment and dealing (20-105 based on level (+30% AP) magic damage (12-6 second cooldown based on level)

Flock: Enemy champion deaths create a Soul Fragments. Swain can collect Soul Fragments to restore (4%-7% total health)

Swain can store up to 5 Soul Fragments.
This passive has 2 parts. The first part, Ravenous is like half a Dredge Line that deals mediocre damage but can instantly cause someone to be pulled out of position to their death. It also has the benefit of giving you a Soul Fragment. You can only hold 5 of them at one time, and that's important for your ultimate which I'll cover a little further down this section. This mostly has use for comboing someone but also incredible if your jungler can CC a target. Imagine an Ivern sliding into your lane, and then you yank them even further away from their tower. Super strong. It has a long range too, it's not limited by your auto range (but you can't yank several people quickly like Caitlyn's headshot.

Flock is what the fragments do for you outside of your ultimate. They heal you based on your level. This is what lets you have good sustain in lane. Every time you CC a target (or a target is CCd in front of you) you gain a % of your max HP. Same thing whenever an enemy dies nearby. You don't even need to get the takedown to trigger a fragment drop. Think of it like a mini Triumph that fuels your ultimate. So make sure to try and get 5 of these by the time you can trigger your ulti's second half! (Again, more in depth below)
Q: Death's Hand
Death's Hand
Cost: 65/70/75/80/85 Mana
Cooldown: 7.5/6.25/5/3.75/2.5

Swain unleashes FIVE bolts of eldritch power that strike the first enemy they hit and pierce through enemies they kill. Enemies hit take 65/85/105/125/145 (+40% AP) magic damage, plus 15/20/25/30/35% per additional bolt. Max Damage: 104/153/210/275/348 (64/72/80/88/96%AP)

Each unit killed by Death's Hand restores 3% of Swain's Maximum Mana.
This is your bread and butter spell. Ludicrous damage if used at point blank, and meh if a target is only struck by 1 or 2 bolts. Most importantly however is that its cooldown drops to a tiny 2.5s. This means that if you can stay in melee range you'll be pumping out damage that no champion can handle. It's also your waveclear ability, by hitting a creep with multiple bolts it's very easy to cause them to die and allow the bolts to pierce, thus allowing another to die etc etc. It also gives Swain back his mana, as it's decently mana gated for teamfights you'll run oom very quickly if you just throw this out randomly. Make sure to kill the creep you're attempting to hit otherwise you're screwed for mana.

To harass someone in lane I suggest abusing the fact they're probably melee, or scared of you. Walk up to a low hp minion, or a caster if you're high HP. You then Q through the minion to get some mana back and hit your enemy for some poke damage. Even better if you can kill multiple minions with the spell. It also means enemies can't hide behind creeps if you're dueling in melee range because you'll just melt them and still hit them.

Make sure not to spam this though, at rank 5 it has a 2.5s CD and a high 85 mana cost. You will run OOM very easily. This is why RoA/GLP are good buys on Swain. Aside from cost efficiency: HP lets you stride closer without fear of death, Mana lets you spam more Qs, AP is AP and on top of all that you get HP for using mana and mana for taking damage (which as a battlemage you will take damage). Overall perfect. Especially because this is your main damage spell and it has innately a really low CD, thus allowing you to skip CDR.

I max this ability first to lower its CD and increase its damage. Not much more to say about it.
W: Vision of Empire
Vision of Empire
Cost: 90/100/110/120/130 Mana
Cooldown: 22/21/20/19/18

Swain opens a demon eye up to 3500 range away that deals 100/150/200/250/300 (+70% AP) magic damage and slows for 25/35/45/55/65% for 2.5 seconds.

Champions hit grant Swain a Soul Fragment and are revealed for 4/5/6/7/8 seconds.

Damage is reduced by 50% against minions.
What this skill lets you do is pretty crazy. Its base damage is 100 at level 1, its range is longer than most ultimates, it has a heavy slow when ranked up, it gives vision on champions/an area and it gives swain fragments which heals him and empowers his ultimate. What an ability. Too bad it has a mana cost that rivals Destiny and an insane cooldown. Plus it's on a spicy long delay meaning you have to follow it up with CC or on blind players. Its damage is reduced on creeps too so you can't long range farm with it easily. (but lets be real, you're totally going to roam halfway down a river to sniper a cannon creep from your ally.) You'll want to use this ability to scout objectives or delay people.

It's also going to deal a lot of damage if it connects, so combining it with allied CC or your own combo will let you deal a lot of damage. The soul fragments are not to be ignored either, if you can hit 2-3 champions with this on some AoE lockdown ability like Cataclysm you'll not only heal a lot, you'll prep your ultimates burst if you didn't already have some fragments. In the late game, this is what will let you get fragments because unless you get lots of takedowns, or picks, you wont be getting a lot of fragments.

I max this ability LAST because its mana cost is way too high, and without CDR you won't be spamming it a lot anyway. The slow is really good, as is the vision control, but those are more important later anyway.
E: Nevermove
Cost: 60/65/70/75/80 Mana
Cooldown: 13/12/11/10/9

Swain launches a wave of demonic power, dealing 35/70/105/140/175 (+25% AP) magic damage to enemies it passes through.

Swain then commands the wave to return, detonating it on the first enemy hit. Enemies hit take 35/45/55/65/75 (+25% AP) magic damage and are rooted for 1.5 seconds.

The target will take a total of 70/115/160/205/250 (+50% AP) magic damage if they are hit both parts of the wave.
You'll want to be using this to catch enemies out to let you maneuver around them and connect your other abilities. It has the lowest mana cost of your basic abilities and an average cooldown, the damage is decent too if you land both waves. The only downside is that its got a really mediocre AP ratio (the base damage is alright).

I've mentioned it before, but the combo evolves around this ability. What you do is you begin by casting Nevermove and if you're sure the second wave will return and hit the target you cast Vision of Empire infront of your victim. Then after the second half of Nevermove hits your target, you use your passive pull from Ravenous to yank your target into the detonating W. Then they're heavily slowed/out of position and damaged you can smack them with a point blank Death's Hand. This combo does cost a lot of mana so it's only really going to be used when you all in.

Another big thing to mention about this ability is that the root is a small AoE. That means you can root multiple people and even some who are just in front of a minion. Whilst you can only pull one champion with your passive, you can root 2-3 with Nevermove.

I max this ability SECOND because you want its CD as low as possible to create picks if you cannot rely on your team to do it (Hint, you never can).
R: Demonic Ascension
Demonic Ascension
Cost: All Soul Fragments
Cooldown: 120

Swain frees the demon within for 12 seconds, gaining 150/275/400 bonus health. Every second, he drains the 3 closest enemy champions for 35/50/65 (+14% AP) magic damage, healing him for 15/30/45 (+16% AP) health. After draining 150/300/450 health (based on level), Swain gains the ability to cast Demonflare.

Demonflare: Swain unleashes a nova of soulfire dealing magic damage and ending his transformation. Damage per Soul Fragments: 45/60/75 (+27% AP) for a maximum 225/300/375 (+135% AP) damage with 5 Fragments.

Swain can drain non-champions to heal for 20% of the normal amount.
This is one hell of an ultimate, aside from how amazing it looks, it's incredibly powerful. First thing you might notice is that its cooldown is static. This means that only CDR will drop it, and because you don't buy a lot of CDR usually it'll always be kind of high. This is why I suggest The Ultimate Hat as it's a multiplicative CD reduction, so it's better with less bought CDR and Swain will only get 15% with an average build. Second, it has NO MANA COST. This is important to note because all of his basic abilities cost a lot of mana. You don't have to worry about being OOM to cast this.

It grants you bonus health on cast, what that means is it's very similar to Wild Growth in that your max HP will go up for the duration, but you also get that HP off the bat (If you're 1hp and you ult, you'll have 151hp) The HP gain is also unaffected by Grievous Wounds, and any positive effects like Spirit Visage so you know exactly how much health you'll get when you press it. The hp 'restored' also doesn't go away after the ultimate ends, you get to keep it. Your maximum health will of course go back down to it's normal level though.
Now its drain damage is pretty whatever, it's unlikely to go over 100 dps which means most champions can out damage you or out-sustain you (both if they use lifesteal/have sustain) but it's an AoE. The healing is based off of a base number and AP, not off the damage you deal (even if you're doing next to no damage, you'll still heal a lot). The healing will also be trippled if you're against 3 champions (3 drain tethers = 3x healing). The healing will affect minions and monsters so it's not totally useless in lane, but it'll shine against multiple opponents.

Once you drain a certain amount of HP (based on the ability rank) you'll then be able to cast an AoE nuke based on the number of Soul Fragments you have. Each fragment adds a little more damage, with 5 it's up there with Chronobreak and Primordial Burst for damage. In a huge AoE. This damage is really, really high. I should note that you have to wait for your drain to deal enough damage, which means you need to build a fair bit of AP to get this off more quickly. You can continue to cast your other abilities whilst you're draining.
You have so many uses for this ability, but your most obvious one is to make sure you have 5 soul fragments and drain enough health quick enough to cast Demonflare and nuke everyone. If you don't have 5 fragments but you can cast Demonflare you can wait a couple of seconds to try and get one from your other abilities. After 12s you automatically end the drain and trigger Demonflare using all your shards (if any).

I max this ability whenever I can (6/11/16) , because it's an ultimate.
This summoner spell is one you should always take and the one you'll always see. Flash has a billion and one uses, from flashing in to get a kill, from flashing away from danger, flashing over walls and flashing over abilities. This is something you should be very familiar with by now and it's something you should ALWAYS have. There is never a situation where you don't take flash.
Teleport has no direct combat use, but it's an incredibly tactical spell. Getting free recalls by tping back to lane, flanking from pre-placed wards, ganking other lanes, general map control and just map pressure are all things TP lets you do. If you're top it's even more important because otherwise you'll be isolated so hard in the early game.
A direct combat summoner that straight up helps you duel and secure kills. Being able to get a level 3-4 kill from players who don't suspect your damage or being able to duel someone who has sustain in their kit is what Ignite does best. It's also something you should be very aware of as it directly screws your healing with Demonic Ascension and your Flock passive. It got buffed fairly recently so I would suggest using this a lot more often now.
One of the problems Swain has is mobility. Ghost is an on-demand summoner that gives you that mobility. It's kind of redundant with Phase Rush but it's still incredibly strong to have.

Sorcery & Inspiration

Phase Rush
Phase Rush is just the best rune for Swain in every situation. It gives you good lane pressure as if you land your E you'll always be able to trigger it with a passive activation. The high slow resistance and general ease of proccing makes this rune compliment the battle-mage style of swain perfectly. I would never take anything else.

Nimbus Cloak
One of the most important things about Swain's gameplay is getting into proper position during Demonic Ascension. Nimbus Cloak has perfect synergy with this making it the only choice. Manaflow Band is really necessary thanks to the fact you'll nearly always be rushing a Rod of Ages.

Whilst you'll rarely get to 40% cooldown reduction as Swain it's not from a lack of wanting some, but it's that the playstyle dictates you need to buy more ability power/health based items like Rod of Ages and Liandry's Anguish. You'll also be in a solo lane making it fairly easy to quickly gain levels in order to make use of this rune. It's the one of the only viable ways to gain cooldown reduction on Swain so I'd consider it the best rune.

Gathering Storm
Scorch is just too weak to ever use. Instead, Gathering Storm further cements Swain as a mid-late game mage by gaining large amounts of ability power as the game progresses. These is no other real option in this tier.


Biscuit Delivery

Cosmic Insight
Inspiration: Perfect Timing/ Cosmic Insight are the 2 runes you'll be taking here. Perfect Timing is a must because being able to use a Zhonya's Hourglass before finishing the item has an infinite number of uses, especially on a champion like Swain who really can abuse the stasis effect. Then once you fully finish the hourglass it will have a shorter cooldown allowing you to make more plays with it. Cosmic Insight is the second rune to take as the extra cooldown reduction to everything makes for a small amount of consistent power. Having your summoner spells up faster than everyone else and having even more time off your Zhonya's Hourglass cooldown is second to none. The extra 5% base cooldown reduction is also nice as discussed earlier with the Transcendence rune.

Offence: Ability Power +10
Flex: Ability Power +10
Defense: Health +15-90

Swain can only make use of the bonus ability power in the first 2 rune options. Whilst the scaling cooldown reduction would be nice, it just takes far too long to become useful making the only viable choice the ability power. As for the last rune you can take any of the 3 but overall the extra health will be the most consistent. If you're against a hard matchup however I would suggest swapping to either armour or magic resistance depending on the opponents damage type.

Doran’s Ring
You'll pretty much always start this and 2 potions unless you're against a lane you'll straight up smash and grab a Dark Seal or someone who can poke you out without breaking a sweat and you'll buy a Doran's Shield.
Rod of Ages
This is your utmost core item on Swain. Great cost effiency with 3 stats you desperately need (HP/AP/Mana). The fact it takes 10 minutes to stack isn't a worry because it's cheap and you'll be rushing it ASAP. No other AP item is good enough to rush.
Sorcerer's Shoes
After you finish your first item you can buy your boots. I suggest Sorcerer's Shoes most of the time because you'll be doing some absurd damage however either defence boot with Tabi/Mercs or the CDR based Ionians have their place too. I would default to these though.
Zhonya's Hourglass
Most champions can consider skipping Zhonyas for more damage, but as Swain you never can. You'll be walking close to enemies so the armour will help a lot vs ADCs and Assassins. The main reason this item is core though, is when you put yourself into statis whilst under the effect of Demonic Ascension the drain does not stop. That means you can get 2.5s worth of drain healing if the enemy can't run away. This is has so many uses and is irreplaceable.
This is almost identical to Liandry's Anguish as far as cost and stats go, but costs 100g less. This item is a great buy third as at around this time you'll be at your strongest. Being able to kill squishy champions in a single combo and then them being unable to heal effectively makes this item amazing. Whilst you don't always need the healing reduction and it's not uncommon to need more than just flat penetration, in the current meta flat pen and healing reduction are incredibly strong and it's the item I default to buying third in 80% of my games.
Liandry's Torment
This is the perfect item for Swain against anyone with any remote amount of HP, or teams that simply can't 100-0 you allowing to make use of both passives. The stats alone are amazing, but the % max HP burn and the increase in magic damage in combat just push this over the top. As it scales directly with how much health the enemy team has it's better to buy this item fourth, third if the enemies are tanky. It's not a must grab due to the fact some games simply don't have many high health targets, but usually teams have at least 1 champion you can destroy with the % damage. Again like the Morellonomicon it's situational but I buy it in most of my games.
Rabadon's Deathcap
The item you'll be buying 5th or 6th most games. High cost, high base AP and a passive that multiplies all the AP you already have make this a god tier end game item. You won't be buying this item much but when you do you'll notice your AP go up by at least 200 and your damage equally will go up a very noticeable amount. This item is a situaional slot because sometimes you don't need AP just raw AP to win the game.
Void Staff
The % pen this offers means you'll probably be buying it if the enemy team has a tank or any serious MR items. I only buy this item if the enemy team has a frontline with multiple high MR targets you must get past to kill any squishy. You'll know when you need it because of 2 main reasons. First, you probably can't buy flat pen boots or Morellonomicon because of the way the enemy team plays around the tanky champions making them poor buys. Second, if the enemy team simply all have high magic resistance. As a general rule of thumb I buy this in replacement of Morellonomicon as my third/fourth item if the enemy team has 2+ high MR threats, or 1 huge immovable one. However in the current meta that isn't that common, and buying a void staff just for a single enemy that has less than 130 MR is simply not good.
Void Staff
Probably the most situational item on this guide. You only ever buy this item if the enemy team has multiple high magic damage threats that also double up as or also have pick champions. Champions like Ahri, Morgana, Annie and Rakan come to mind as potential candidates. However, you'll probably need at least 2 of those champions on your team to even consider this item because as Swain there are many more important items you need to buy.
Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Mobility can be achieved by being faster than the opponent, so if you slow them down below you then by that logic you're more mobile than them. Being able to tap someone with a stray Q bolt and be able to get in real close has a good benefit. However it's its synergy with Torments burn and another AP item with HP attached to it that makes this item really strong. I would only buy this alongside a torment though, I'd prefer more flat AP against squishy teams.
Mejai's Soulstealer
Ok if you're snowballing and are getting some absurd kills without ever dying, then try your hand at a Dark Seal into a Mejai. It also gives you a boat load of MS if you're able to keep above 10 stacks. All in all a really cheap item that if you don't die and pick up kills can be absurd for you to end games with.
Ludens Echo
You are NOT a mage that buys lost chapter and rushes these items. This is because you need that RoA too much and it's only really viable to buy as a first item. That being said, you can actually get this as a second or third item if you're snowballing hard. Mostly its for the hefty amount of CDR these items offer but they also have good effects tied to them. Ludens specifically offers extra damage every few seconds which is perfect if you need to burst someone.
Laning Phase:
As swain your biggest goal in lane is to get your Rod of Ages as fast as you can. Good farming and wave management are your friends. You have lowish damage early and also don't have a lot of reliable ranged spells. Your Vision of Empire does have a very long range, but with a 2.5s arm time it's only going to be good as part of a combo or to scout for the enemy jungler. However just because you're looking to play safe doesn't mean you're useless if your jungler comes to gank. Ravenous Flock lets you pull a target towards you which is incredibly powerful for when someone ganks for you. Together with your Nevermove you have the ability to setup and followup with a deadly jungle gank, just don't expect to kill them alone easily.
Your combo is fairly simple but somewhat hard to consistently land. You start by throwing out your Nevermove then when it first tags the enemy champion you judge if it will be connect on the return (thus rooting them). If you think it will root them cast your
Vision of Empire between you and your victim, placing it right next to them (but not on top of them). Then when your nevermove roots the target you begin walk up to them and pull with Ravenous Flock to yank them into your Vision of Empire detonation. They're now slowed, pulled closer and rooted which gives you plenty of time to get close and zap them with a multi-bolt Death's Hand and if they're low enough begin your Demonic Ascension. With the root + w + pull, and you have the rune, Phase Rush will proc allowing you to close the distance much eaiser for a point blank Q and the ability to mostly ignore any slows they might fling your way to stop you.

If you're going Unsealed Spellbook then I would suggest starting with Ignite or Ghost to give you some solid killing power against your laner if your jungler comes. If nothing ever comes to fruition then once you recall swap out the spell for something else. Teleport can let you return to lane instantly, or more importantly allow you to gank anoter lane with your map pressure. Ghost gives you unrivaled mobility on demand and Ignite will be situationally useful against teams who need the Grevious Wounds debuff to die. It's a rune that has a high skillcap and you should always treat it as though you have access to every summoner when you're on that platform.
Mid Game:
In the mid game you're looking to follow up or create picks in skirmishes (2v2/3v3) that lets your ultimate and CC shine. Ravenous Flock is the perfect follow up on something like Dark Binding or Charm and being in a 2v2 or 3v3 fight allows your ultimate to drain/flare several enemies. 5v5s aren't out of the question, but more often than not you'll be still farming side lanes or mid lane to keep the income rolling.

Don't be afraid to use Vision of Empire to scout with your jungler/support to get deep vision safely. Having vision on the enemy at all times allows you play with the map so much more easily. If the enemy jungler is farming their botside camps then you can pressure baron/top/herald without fear of a flank/smite fight. I cannot stress enough how important vision control is, and with an ability like your W you have the tools directly in your kit to create and manage that vision.
Late Game:

Once teams group a lot and you have several items you become a very deadly champion. With Demonic Ascension and absurd healing it offers you with the AP you have, you'll be very hard to kill whilst dealing a lot of damage. Vision of Empire is still as useful as ever with the long range vision control that lets you spot flanks and sneaky barons. Unless you have a tank who is able to hard engage, you're still a pick based champion who thrives on catching someone with a Nevermove and/or Ravenous Flock to kill them. Except now you can 100-0 someone fairly easy if you get close enough with a Death's Hand.
As you won't reliably be trading blows with someone, you'll want to try and grab soul fragments whenever you can. Throwing out Vision of Empire to try and catch a free fragment on someone if they're not paying attention will be a huge benefit once you ult. Make sure to stick close to your team if you're focusing on picks, or if you're split pushing make sure you can duel the enemy pusher.

Champions like Irelia, Fiora, Jax and highly skilled Gangplank's are probably ones you don't want to split against as your ramp up is too slow against their kits and they can turn on you even if you fully combo them. Not to mention they can easily buy Grevious Wounds thus destroying your healing/dueling potential. Just judge them based on their skill so far in the game and the items they have. Also it's not smart to split against global teams. Twisted Fate can make any 1v1 a 2v1 which can snowball losses faster than 2s . Always pay attention to your map and keep the vision going to make better choices!
Swain is what Riot classify as "Battlemage". Rumble, Vladimir, Aurelion Sol and Ryze are champions who most match this tag and who have a playstyle you can compare to your own. Getting closer than a normal squishy AP would want to, but have a kit based around higher DPS than what AP champs get too. Usually tied in with extra roaming power to create the battles they want or some form of defence to let them thrive in fights. Your job is to get to the midgame to dismantle the enemy team with high mid-range damage and top tier abilties for picks/vision control.

It's a unique playstyle for sure with a lot of mastery required to land everything but hopefully this guide has given you a solid foothold to become a general who can control demonic eldritch forces.
Special Thanks:

~Hopper: For coding my guide to make it so much better looking in a lot less time than I could ever do.
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