Swain Build Guide by
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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.
This is how I build my Swain. He's a very unique champion and everyone builds him a bit differently. If I direct you here it means you asked about my Swain build, and this is how I will explain it to you.
Magic Penetration Marks: Should be self explanatory; they're really the only Marks I'd consider on a caster.
Flat Mana Regen Seals: Because you have so much mana trouble as Swain, this helps a bit in early laning so you can get a bit of harass in before you can be donated a blue buff. Mana Regen /Level is useless because by mid-lategame you should be getting your (and hopefully the other) team's blue buff, and as Swain you are mostly concerned with living until you hit 6.
OPTIONAL: Flat Armor Seals: I don't do it but I can see it working. If you need the durability in lane that bad and are really good at last hitting (Swain's passive), you can take these. You won't be harassing as much and if you get zoned you won't be able to stay in lane, but you can try it if you want.
Flat Magic Resist Glyphs: Swain only has 30 base Magic Resist, making these invaluable. If you're laning mid, you should definitely have a set of these. This is what will make the difference between a kill in lane and a death.
OPTIONAL: Flat Cooldown Rediction Glyphs: If you are laning top or if you're in Draft and the other team hasn't picked any good AP, these are more useful. You're better off with the reduced cooldowns if you aren't going to be dealing with AP in lane anyway (you can deal with AP you aren't laning against by being careful that you don't get ganked by them and by building some midgame).
Choice Quints: Personally I prefer Movement Speed, but Ability Power, Magic Penetration, Dodge... anything will work really. I find myself kiting and chasing very often and I only take 2 points in the Movement Speed Mastery, so I grab the Movement Speed, but it just depends on your playstyle. Play Swain and learn what you do well or what you need a little extra for, and go for that.
I go for 0-9-21. 9-0-21 is alright, but again it's based on playstyle; I need the extra bit of Magic Resist and Armor, plus the nice Health Regen from Strength of Spirit. Make sure to take a point in Greed as well, you basically get a free ward every 12 and a half minutes, which is more than you can say for any other single mastery point you can spend. The rest are standard for casters, Mana Regen, Buff Duration, Cooldown Reduction... And remember to get those four points in the Experience Mastery; you're going to need it. The reason that the Utility Tree is so important is because, as Swain, you have the unique ability to use Ignite as a real, physical part of your burst that deals a lot of your damage, so you absolutely need the Cooldown to be as low as possible.
If you decide to go down the Offense Tree instead of Defense, don't take the Ignite Mastery, take the Magic Penetration, it will do more damage in general.
I usually end up starting Boots 3 Pot, which you should take if your lane opponent has any kind of skillshot, or if you aren't quite sure what to buy, because this is generally a safe start. You can also start Cloth Armor 5 Pot if you're laning against an AD Champion, or a Mana Crystal 2 Pot if you're absolutely sure that you are going to win your lane by a landslide, for an early start on your Catalyst. I would advise against a Doran's Ring because you can't sustain yourself until you hit level 6, so if they land any harass on you you'll have to back before then, which is not what you want. You goal is to stay in lane as long as possible and especially not back before 6. If you get behind then you can stack two or three Doran's Rings early to help you out in lane, but note that this will put you behind in the long run.
If you didn't start Boots 3 Pot, you should get your Boots 1 on your first back, and try to have Catalyst by then as well. You should finish your boots before you continue building Rod of Ages. Usually you will take Merc Treads, but if you are laning against an AD Champ you should take Ninja Tabi instead. Don't get Sorc Shoes because you need the extra defences; you are a Tanky Mage, not Annie, Brand, Orianna, or someone squishy like that. That 20 Magic Penetration won't help you nearly as much as the Armor/Dodge or Magic Resist/Tenacity.
After you have your Boots, finish Rod of Ages, and go straight into Deathcap. This will allow you to have a bank of Mana for when Blue Buff is down, and also gives you Health so you become that much more tanky. You do need the damage from that early Deathcap however, tanky items won't help you as much until big teamfights happen.