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Swain Build Guide by nicmanalger

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PLEASE NOTE: This build has been archived by the author. They are no longer supporting nor updating this build and it may have become outdated. As such, voting and commenting have been disabled and it no longer appears in regular search results.

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League of Legends Build Guide Author nicmanalger

Professor Swain

nicmanalger Last updated on August 30, 2011
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Team 1


Team 2

LeagueSpy Logo
Top Lane
Ranked #16 in
Top Lane
Win 48%
Get More Stats

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.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 9

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 0

Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 21

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History of Swain

The earliest account of Swain's existence comes from a Noxian infirmary doctor's notes. According to them, Swain limped into the ward without cry or complaint; his right leg was snapped in half, with bone protruding from the skin. A small, scowling bird seemed affixed to his shoulder. The doctor gawked in horror as the young adolescent answered questions about his health and age with a calm, even stare. Even behind the echoing crack as the sand counterweights reset his tibia, Swain's measuring gaze never flickered, nor did his eyes twitch from the pop of his fibula. He refused the doctor's recommendation of magical treatment for the leg's inoperable damage, requesting only a spare crutch before shuffling away. He next surfaced in documents from the Noxian military, although it is evident that they are incomplete. Normally a crippled boy would be turned away in shame from Noxus' proud legion, but the records indicate his first designation was that of a ranking officer.

The men who've served under him (and survived) have remained in his charge with unshakable faith and loyalty. He leapt through the High Command's hierarchy, often ascending when superiors requested demotions to join his unit. A cunning strategist, Swain was decorated after every battle he fought, regularly hobbling in contemplation at the front of the assault. His rise to power seemed unceasing until he was suddenly relegated to inactive status prior to the Ionian Invasion - a bewildering decision which reeked of bureaucratic subversion. If Swain was upset by the events which unfolded, he never belied it. His face was so implacable that it was popularly rumored to be a mask, disguising something utterly inhuman beneath. More controversy surrounded the bird that never left his shoulder, whose name he whispered only to it. When Demacia escalated its presence in the League, Swain was immediately returned to active duty.

''If you haven't yet lost the ability to ask, you may not yet ask for relief.''

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This is an explanation of how I play the Champion called Swain. This is an ever evolving build and I invite suggestions on how to make it better. I have not intended this guide to be comprehensive and make all other guides obsolete, because there are several different ways to play each champion. I wanted to be thorough in my build to help others when they play Swain.

The purpose of this guide is to do two things, each is done in the different build suggested in the guide. The first build is geared towards getting magic penetration and maximizing damage that way. This can be achieved different ways, but this is the way that I have chosen. The second build is aimed at maximizing AP with some Magic Penetration. You can build one guide or the other, a hybrid a both, or even take change items, runes, etc to fit your style of Swain.

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Greater Mark of Insight - Simple enough. He is a caster and we want his magic to do the most damage and to do that we need it to penetrate. Enough said.

Greater Seal of Replenishment - Swain uses a lot of mana and getting a little bit more back is a good thing. This doesn't solve the problem, but every little bit helps.

Greater Glyph of Potency - This is a nice AP boost for the early game.

Greater Quintessence of Insight - See explanation above.

Other possible choices:
AP Scaling runes - They give more AP late game, but leave you weaker early game. Not a big fan of them personally because late game it doesn't matter that much. If you can't get the kills early game, you won't have gold to buy items for the late game.

Mana Regain runes - They are nice and help the mana problems that Swain will eventually encounter, but I feel that having more than Seals to regain mana is wasting a good spot that could be used for something more beneficial.

Health Regain Runes - I have seen this before as well but I still feel that what is presented works better, but then again that is with my style of play and not yours so maybe they will work with yours better than mine. I don't know. Maybe worth a shot???

Movement Speed Runes - This might be another option because of how slow Swain is. He is a great caster champion that can deal awesome damage, but more than likely he is the slowest champion in the game. Maybe he should talk to Heimerdinger and see if he can get him a mechanical leg, that would also help movement speed.

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Summoner Spells

Good spell because it allows you to jump walls to get away. Good escapability is nice for a slow champion. It also allows you to move closer to someone for the kill if needed as well. Careful when this is on cooldown.

I mostly use this one for finishing someone off that thinks they can get away. I have several kills from this one early game because they thought if they got back to their tower they would be safe. Due to damage over time, the kill is delayed a bit but a kill is still a kill.

My most favorite spell out of all of them, but I think the two previous are the best, but once in a while I give this one a shot. This gives a sure minion kill and each kill give gold to the champion, but to Swain each kill recovers mana as well.

Whether you are in a "want to get away" mood or a "Run, Forrest (Swain), Run" mood, this spell can get you out of some bad situations.

Not my favorite but still very useful. It slows down an escaping enemy to get a kill as well as slows down their attack speed.

Not one that I use often, but if you are are going against a lot of champions that have Crowd Control, then this would be a good idea to take with you.

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Items - Magic Penetration

Doran's Ring -Good starting item. Brings AP, Mana regeneration and Health to start off with. Makes for a good early game.

Boots of Speed - Swain is slow, and this item makes him....less slow.

Sheen - Nice mana increase, nice AP boost, and a nice damage boost from the passive. What more could you want from an item that costs 1260 and still builds into something better???

Sorcerer's Shoes - This increases speed as well as Magic Penetration, and both are very nice to have.

Rod of Ages - A very nice item that brings Mana, AP, and health to Swain. All of which are very needed and you can never have enough of. I like to get this item early because it takes 20 minutes to get all the bonus Ability Power.

Lich Bane - This items does a few important things for Swain: 1) Brings more AP 2) Adds more mana 3) 7% movement speed. Every little bit helps.

Void Staff - I like this item because it does two things and only two things. Brings a bunch of AP to Swain, and increases Magic Penetration. Two very important things to Swain.

Abyssal Scepter - This item brings a lot to the table. Magic Resist, of course more AP, and it also lowers the magic resist of enemy champions :)

Rabadon's Deathcap - This item is a must for any AP build. It brings a lot of AP to Swain, but also provides a 30% AP boost as well. A build can not be an AP build unless this item is included.

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Items - AP Build

If items we used in the Magic Penetration build, they will not be listed here. Please see their explanation in the previous section.

Mejai's Soulstealer - Start getting stacks to get CDR and more AP which is always nice to have. If you have several stacks, you will take a hit if you die loosing a third of what you have, so be careful!!!

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Items - Others

These items are other items that can also be used if the situation presents itself. If you want to try to modify one of the builds above, try one of these in its place.

Archangel's Staff - This adds mana, mana regen, AP, and will increase your mana pool over the course of the game. Not bad.

Banshee's Veil - Nice magic resist and will block one ability every 45 seconds which is very nice.

Deathfire Grasp - Added AP with CDR and mana regeneration. Also has a good active attack.

Moonflair Spellblade - I will be honest that I don't use this one, but I could see a use for it in the right situation with lots of enemy crowd control abilities. This helps, but maybe Banshee's Veil would be a better recommendation.

Morello's Evil Tome - AP, CRD and Mana regen. are all nice to have but other items might be better.

Rylai's Crystal Scepter - Very nice item and this would be one of the first items I would add if I were going to try something else. Nice health increase, AP, and can slow enemy targets as well.

Zhonya's Hourglass - Nice because it makes it so your champion cannot be targeted for a short while which might make the difference of getting away or dying with such a slow champion.

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Pros / Cons

Does good damage through out the game
Passive recovers mana from kills
Ultimate recovers health
All around short cooldowns on abilities
Has a some crowd controls
Attacks with good range that allows you to stay out of harm's way but still do damage
Good Farmer

Can be a bit squishy
Really slow movement
Can have mana problems

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Game Phases

Early Game
My recommendation is to play Swain in mid where he can harass a bit and get stronger with a 1v1 situation, or go top with another ranged champion or someone who has a good harass. Either way, the most important thing that Swain can do it FARM. This is the biggest mistake that I have seen from new players. They don't know how to last hit and so they don't get gold, and they don't get the items that they need/want, and then get killed, and it must be the builds fault, not theirs. If you don't farm (kill minions in the waves) then you won't have a good Swain by the end of the game. You will fall behind and hurt your team more than you will ever help it.

If you can get a quick kill or two, great, but try to stay safe and get gold. I don't think that Swain is that item dependent (ok maybe in the speed area), but getting good items allows for an easier end game with huge amounts of damage. That is why farming is important. By level three you should have one point in each ability and you should be able to do more, but I would say hold back until level six. Swain is an old man, and if you play like it, then they will push when they shouldn't and you can find yourself with two or more kills easily. Once you get to level six find the weak one in your lane and let him have it. Decrepify (Q) will slow the enemy, Nevermove (W) will hold the enemy in place, Torment (E) is your bread and butter as far as damage goes, and Ravenous Flock (R) your ult will do some more damage as well as restore health.

My suggestion is to try a Q,E combo to lower their health. This will do a good job of doing damage without much cost of mana. I don't use Nevermove (W) because then they know that I have something that will stop them in their tracks. Just let them think that Swain has a slow and that's it. When they get low, then used the above combination Q,W,E,R (or another similar to it) to finish them off and get the kill. If there are more than one champion and they are close together, Nevermove and Ravenous Flock will attack more than one at a time which can net you a double kill.

Mid Game
Once the laning phase is over, Swain needs to be on his toes. He is a great asset in team fights, but if things go bad and everyone runs, he will be left behind. Keep this in mind during the fight. Stay with a group. If they can protect you, you can do great damage for them. Because of Swain's ultimate, he often gets kills when enemies are low just because the birds fly in three directions making it easy to kill multiple enemy champions at a time.

Just because the laning phase is over, don't stop fariming. Kept buying items and it needed get the blue buff. Not often will someone else on your team need it more than you, but be careful so that you don't get picked off in the process. That is a good place to get ganked and this is the phase where it could easily happen.

Swain is strong at this part of the game, but if played correctly he will get even stronger and do even more damage.

Late Game
By this phase of the game you should have most of your items, and if things are going well you are winning. The great part about Swain is that because of his health recover from his ultimate, you can take a lot of damage. If you have to, you can tank for short periods of time, but only if needed to. Don't volunteer, but you have the unique ability to give lots of damage and recover lots of health by this point. I've seen some people take more damage with Swain than Rammus did during a game. I'm not saying that you should tank like Rammus, but what I am saying is that you if you need to, or if you feel like it for a while. Just make sure that you don't run out of mana!!!

Late Game - Winning
If you team is winning the game or if its close, you should be on mop up duty and you should be strong enough to take out champions either on at a time, or groups at a time. Don't get reckless, but know that you are/should be the damage dealer of the team. Focus on champions and let the champions that go DPS take out turrets. You can support them by taking out minions and holding back champions, but they should do the that because of their attack speed. If they don't know that, please give them a friendly reminder.

Late Game - Losing
If you team is getting beat, if you haven't, you need to farm and get built. You team needs you as a damage dealer, not as a cheerleader or as a benchwarmer. Pick your battles and attack and make sure that you finish. Don't jump into a battle and come out dead or with no mana and no kills. That is a waste. Even worse if you don't even get an assist. At the very least an assist will get you a stack with the AP build.

You need to figure out which champion is causing the most problem for your team and take them out. If they have an awesome tank that won't let your team touch their average Carries, take him out. If Annie is give your team fits and killing everyone, take her out. You need to lead your team in taking that champion out, but to do that you have to be built right and have the items to do so. That's why farming the entire game is important. You can swing the momentum late game and make your opposition snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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Ending Comments

I want to know what I can do to make this build better. Please let me know, send suggestions, questions, or whatever else my way. I would ask this if you are going to vote on my build. Try the build at least 5 times before voting it down if you are playing that champion for the first time. I have found that it takes at least that many times to figure out how to play the champion and get things mostly under controlled enough to pass an informed judgement.

Also keep in mind, this is how I play Swain, and it might not be your way, or a way that works with your style of play, so please keep that in mind when you play.

Again, send me what you think my way, and I will do my best to respond, and thank you for reading by guide on the Champion they call Swain.