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Not Updated For Current Season
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Here is a hybrid AP/AD build for Swain.
Reasons for this build:
Swain has many things going for him. But one thing that he doesnt have going for him is AP scaling. His Q, E, and R scale terribly with ability power. Only his W has decent AP scaling, and even then its only .6, so it makes sense to try and hybridize him. But an even better reason is his E skill, which does a 4 second DoT and increases all damage done to the target by Swain by 20%. The best way to take advantage of this is to hit them as much as possible. His R skill makes it possible to stand in one place a little longer than other carries as well.
Try to grab mid, as you will be stronger than most other mids. I have found the best way to farm with swain is using W with R. Otherwise, he feels like a relatively bad farmer. His lasthitting is inferior to other mids, so this strategy feels the strongest. Also, his W will do a decent chunk of damage and has the best AP scaling of all his abilities. Make sure to use R anytime you need hp. Staying at full is important since he doesnt have very good survivability and his snares can be unreliable.
lvl 6 till end of laning:
A trip back to base for Boots and Tear of the Godess should be priority. Getting tear working early ensures you will have a big manapool by lvl 11. This is important to sustain his R. Swain benefits from Blue Buff more than most champs because it lets him use his R for long periods of time without worry. So try to grab this often. Feel free to roam and gank a pushed lane. The surprise factor of an E -> Q -> W -> R combo from behind will net kills.
lvl 11 through 16:
Continue farming and working with the team. As you item up you become a much better pusher and tower taker, so try to get Nashors and Guinsoos going ASAP. These items work well on Swain because they get his CDR to 40% with this build, and they synergize very well with his E, which increases all damage done by swain to the target by 20%. Therefore, more spells cast and more attacks mean much more damage.
Now its time to get that Rylai's if you havent won yet. Rylai's makes it easy for you to help assist in kills by stacking with the slow from the laser bird. The most important thing end game with Swain is to root and combo on the enemy carries. Dont bother with the tanks. Turn on your R and ignore them. They shouldnt kill you with your health regen and your teammates all around you. Rooting melee carries is especially important since this takes away their ability to get in the fight. Assist in the killing by comboing E -> Q -> R -> Autoattacks, or R -> E -> Q -> W -> Autoattacks. Just remember that your mana is draining, so dont blow it all if you dont have to. You should be as far back as possible while doing these things. You are not an initiator.
Swain is a pretty fun character to play. With this build he has great burst potential, and is an especially strong early/mid game caster and fills an end game support caster role.
For those in doubt of his potential as a hybrid AP/AD caster, consider this theorycrafting: with 500AP, Swain's E skill only does an extra 100 over 4 seconds. but with an extra 100 AD and 1.5 AS, you would do an extra 100 * 1.2 * 1.5 * 4 = 720 damage over 4 seconds via autoattacks, ignoring armor. Factoring for 100 armor (which is more than a typical carry gets), this would be 360 over 4 seconds...nearly 3 times as much.
Have fun with this build! I think its the first posted hybrid build on Mobafire.