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Swain Build Guide by Skybyte

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Skybyte


Skybyte Last updated on January 27, 2015
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Middle Lane
Ranked #9 in
Middle Lane
Win 50%
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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.



Offense: 21

Legendary Guardian

Defense: 0


Utility: 9

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A big hello to the MOBAFire community. My name is Skybyte, and this is my very first MOBAFire guide! Let me give you a little background information about myself. I have been an avid gamer for many years now, starting with World of Warcraft back in vanilla. I was recommended League Of Legends by a friend roughly halfway through season 1, however I only stumbled upon Swain during season 2 when I began playing ranked matches. At the time, I absolutely HATED Swain, I found him confusing and unforgiving. I curse myself to this day for not persevering through that initial stage, he's so fun! I returned to Swain early season 3, and have "abused" the over powered bird man to carry myself from roughly 600 ELO, to Platinum 4, and by following this guide, I'm sure you could do the same! So please, enjoy the guide, and if you have any queries or constructive feedback I would love to hear it! So remember to purchase a ticket..because the penalty is DEATH!

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Pros/ Cons

+ Swain does not have many counters
+ Excellent duelling and team-fighting due to sustain and AOE
+ Scales well into late game
+ Has excellent CC
+ Great auto-attack animation
+ Your a motha flippin’ BIRD!

- Swain has mana issues if your spamming spells or not utilising his passive
- Ignite and healing reduction items are your worst nightmare
- Swain takes time to master
- Moderately short ranged
- Can struggle if denied blue buff

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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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Summoner Spells


Ignite sadly no longer is affected by Swain's Torment however due to it's excellent synergy with his damage-over-time kit Ignite remains the best choice of summoner sell.

Flash is an ability taken on almost every champion, regardless of lane or role, due to it's versatility in terms of being used either offensively to chase, or defensively to flee from a fight. I prefer this spell over Ghost, as it allows very little time for the enemy to react. Middle lane is the shortest lane in League of Legends, and due to this, you can almost flash to your tower from the middle of the lane, making Ghost unnecessary.


Teleport is not optimal, as ignite has so much synergy with Swain, however it is still viable, and could be used to deal with roaming AP middles, like Diana and Talon as well as common AP middles that take Teleport themselves, such as Ryze. In conclusion I feel that while it is viable on Swain, it is not the best possible choice, as Swain does not split push very well, and does not need the safety net that Teleport provides in lane.

Barrier receives a similar verdict to Teleport. That being, it is viable, however there are better choices. Swain is already capable of surviving burst with his ultimate - Ravenous Flock, and he has no escapes, so it would be a bad idea to replace flash with barrier like some Fizz and Kassadin players.

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Runes Explained

Greater Mark of Magic Penetration

Greater Seal of Scaling Health

Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power
Greater Quintessence of Ability Power

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Masteries Explained

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Laning As The Bird Man

Early game

At the start of the game, as Swain you must make an assessment. Begin by having a look at the enemy jungler...Is it a Lee Sin who is likely to gank middle early? Or is it an Udyr who is likely just to farm throughout the early game?

If you feel that you may draw jungler attention during your first 2 levels, then take a point in Nevermove as a means of disengage. On the other hand you feel safe against the enemy jungler, and you are comfortable with your pick against the enemy mid, then take a point in Torment to start laying down the damage when they go in for a last hit. The only exception to this is if your invading, in which case always take Nevermove to try to catch an enemy player.

In lane, your objective should always be to prioritise farm over harass, and this is particularly relevant during levels 1 to 4, as this is when Swain is at his weakest. If the enemy it trying to harass you, either back off, or hit them with Torment and an auto-attack or two.

Shove the lane and back as soon as you can afford a Catalyst of Aeons as well as a sight ward or two and some Health Potions.

Middle Game

Once you return to lane after your first purchase it's time to instil terror into the minds of the unfortunate enemy team.

When you get to lane, set down at least one of your wards, in preparation for what will follow.

Begin last hitting as usual, and wait patiently for the enemy to stray too close to you, then catch them with a Torment + Decrepify + Ravenous Flock then as they're slowed, cast your Nevermove in front of them. If you continue running along side them auto-attacking, then this is sure to burn a LEAST a Flash. Rinse and repeat for a kill, remembering to use Ignite early, as you want to nullify the effects of Health Potion's if the enemy laner attempts to save themselves using them.

Whether this results in a kill or simply forces the enemy mid to back, I do one of the following every time:
1) Shove the lane to tower and roam bottom through the enemy jungle and pop out behind them avoiding all wards.
2) Wait for your minions to reach halfway between your nexus and the outer middle tower, then shove to tower, then as the wave resets back to the middle of the lane, take either your wolves or wraiths.

Be sure to back when under 50% HP in lane, unless your jungler is on his way to gank. If you're above 50% HP, then simply heal up on your wraith camp.

ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS prioritise grouping with your team for objectives such as towers or dragon over that extra wave of farm. Even if you feel it's a bad call, just sit a little further back, then pressure from having a Swain present can make all the difference.

Late Game

The late game is all about grouping with your team, and trying to take objectives together, so this segment will be focussed on your role during team fights, as well as WHEN to call for baron nashor and other objectives.

During teamfights, Swain take part in one of two different roles. If your ahead, then your primary goal is to hunt down the enemy ADC and murder them as quickly as possible, however ensure to stay behind your tank right up until the fight actually breaks out, then avoiding as much CC as possible, weave your way through the fight to that pesky Graves and unload. Once this mission has been accomplished, simply draw as much attention to yourself as possible and hit zonyas, letting Ravenous Flock do the rest.

If on the other hand, you feel you are not as strong as you would like, then alternatively you can focus on peeling for your own ADC. The term peel - if you are unfamiliar with it, simply means to protected via the use of crowd control abilities. Normally this is your supports job, however this is not always the case, and a late game ADC with guardian angel Swain taking care of him can carry games like it's going out of fashion!

When to take Baron Nashor ...
There are basically 3 different situations when calling to take Nashor is NOT going to result in an ace in favour of the enemy team. These situations are written with the assumption that both teams are roughly equal in terms of skill and items/levels, it is also necessary for your jungler to have Smite currently available. They are as follows:
1) The enemy jungler is dead.
2) The enemy jungler is seen farming bot lane and your team is nearby baron.
3) There are super minions flooding into the enemy base, and someone will have to back to stop them.

ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS. Prioritise Baron nashor over an inhibitor if your team is strong enough to take it. There are 3 inhibitors and only 1 Baron nashor , and with Baron nashor you can usually siege down an enemy inhibitor anyway! (The only exception to this is when your team has already taken the inhibitor tower previously, in which case you should be able to seige the inhibitor)

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Defensive Items:

Abyssal Mask is the defensive item I take to round off my build 90% of my games. It simply has all of the stats that are beneficial to a Swain including magic resist to prevent you from being bursted, a bit of ability power to pack a punch, as well as a magic penetration aura, which despite it’s short range is fine for our friend Swain as he is a short ranged mage.

Spirit Visage is probably a better item if you are being completely focussed in team fights. drawing the attention of one or two enemy champions is normal, and Swain can deal with that, however, if you find your being grouped by three or more champions, then the 20% extra healing from your Ravenous Flock can really come in handy.

Banshee's Veil is personally an item that I don’t like particularly much on Swain. Especially after it’s recent changes to include Spectre's Cowl, which no longer provides you with the much wanted mana, but the whole item is much better situated for a melee champion. The only times you should get this item, is either in a scenario where you are being CC’d to death BEFORE you can activate your Zhonya's Hourglass, or when your dealing with a very fed Karthus.

Guardian Angel is actually an item I have become quite fond of, after it’s recent changes to include a Negatron Cloak, which is more important then the armor alternative for an AP middle, as you can get the Negatron Cloak in lane against a [HARD] lane if you need it. The other factor that I think is valuable on Swain is the synergy of Guardian Angels passive with your ultimate. The enemy already has to kill you almost twice when you get low and activate Zhonya's Hourglass allowing your Ravenous Flock to heal you up, and with Guardian Angel you can do this twice!

Boot Enchantments:

There are actually 3 different boot enchantments that work well with our friend Swain and these are:
- Enchantment: Alacrity
- Enchantment: Homeguard
- Enchantment: Captain
Take Enchantment: Homeguard when you are losing.
Take Enchantment: Alacrity if you are either roaming a lot, or peeling for your ADC.
Take Enchantment: Captain if your hunting down the enemy ADC in teamfights, it's actually really good!

Generally you can buy your boot enchantment anytime after you've finished your core items, and I'll leave you to choose an appropriate time at your own discretion. Remember, every game is DIFFERENT! So keep it loose ;)

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Warding As Mid Lane

As a mid laner, I believe it is your job to place wards that not only protect yourself from the enmy jungler (let's face it, middle is the safest lane from jungler ganks as you are the closest to your tower) but also to palce wards that defend your top and bot lane from enemy junglers taking paths through your jungle to gank. As a byproduct of doing this you keep your own jungler safe from invades as well! These warding places are simply the most essential spots for a mid laner to ward, however sometimes you may need to mix things up if those areas are being cleared often.

PS: If you have extra gold in the mid game, Vision Ward the bush close to dragon!

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Common Match-ups

Ahri - [EASY]

    Avoid trading until lvl 4.
    If you catch her post lvl 4 you’ll out damage her.
    She can’t burst you due to your ultimate.
    After landing your W, strafe diagonally while casting e and q to dodge charm while closing in on her.
    Follow her when she roams, if the lane survives her engage, you can pick up a lot of kills.

Ryze - [MEDIUM]
    Ryze can be an issue late game, however you can out-trade with throughout the early and mid game.
    He has no escapes so catching him at level 6 is easy.
    Ward at LEAST one spot, two is optimal as Ryze’s instant cast snare set’s up great early ganks.
    Many Ryze’s run TP. If this is the case don’t let him trade with you before level 4, as he may back, buy, and return to lane with TP, causing the Ryze to be able to zone you with an item and health pool advantage.
    Be sure to ping Ryze TP’s then shove lane and follow him. A Ryze being denied farm and unable to pick up kills roaming falls behind very quickly.

    Harass often early with E + Auto when he tries to CS. Be sure to strafe with backing off to dodge his q.
    Back when below 75% hp post level 6, or heal up off wraiths/wolves.
    Wait for him to push the lane with his shadow, then snare him when he tried to last hit.

Diana - [EASY]
    Like most melee AP mid’s, Diana is an easy lane for Swain. E-Auto when she tries to last hit.
    She can’t burst you with your ultimate up.
    Try your best not to let her roam, shove her lane with w - ultimate if she is not in lane, and try to predict the lane she’s moving to then do one of the following: 1) Spam caution ping the vulnerable lane then call your jungler to push mid or 2) Again ping the lane, then counter gank it.
    Try to bait out her shield with auto’s or zoning tactics, then wait it out before forcing a trade.

    Like other anti-AP carries, Talon can be an issue for a Swain. Thankfully Swain becomes quite hard to burst post level 6, however with jungler help a talon can cause quite a lot of trouble before that, so ward accordingly.
    If afraid of dying, start armor HP pots, and rush an armguard prior to your catalyst.
    Do your best to avoid a Talon snowball, by playing safely, and making sure he can’t roam.

Fizz - [HARD]
    Fizz lanes can be quite tricky, however if you manage to pick up an early kill through your jungler, or an outplay, Swain can out damage a fizz without his shark.
    Fizz’s W healing cut hurt’s Swain’s ultimate healing, and therefore you want to keep trades short.
    Fizz can also troll-pole out of your snare AND q, so don’t fight him unless he has used it already.
    Keep in mind, if your equal kills/CS then if you dodge his ultimate with a juke/flash/zonyas then you can kill him.
    Ask for jungler help early.
    Most Fizz’s start W. So don’t level an ability until you get to lane, and wait to see if his auto’s apply a bleed when he starts to CS. If so, start E instead of W and go hyper aggressive being careful not to let him get close to you until he hits level 2, where you should go back to last hitting carefully.

LeBlanc - [HARD]
    Swain’s early game is quite weak in the fact that he is short ranged and sustained damage, therefore susceptible to burst. Against LB, back for an early Negatron Cloak, and build that into an Abyssal Sceptre after your Zonyas.
    Levels 1 to 6 are by far going to be the hardest in this lane. When LB tries to trade, try to duke to the side to avoid her chains and jump to avoid the silence. If you manage to dodge these, then try to cast an E on her, before she returns to her original place with her W.
    Request jungler help.

Tristana - [HARD]
    An AP Tristana is actually the hardest lane a Swain can come up against surprisingly enough.
  • Thankfully this is a rare occurrence except for in Bronze and low Silver brackets. And even then, people do not often think of her as a pick specifically against Swain.
    This lane is impossible as far as I am aware, it is practically impossible to dodge her rocket jump, and the rest of her abilities are targeted.
    She can kill you from 100% HP at level 2 if she lands her rocket jump, so let her shove the lane, and CS under tower.
    Your only hope is to ask for a baby sit from your jungler, then proceed to back for a Negatron Cloak the minute you can afford one.
    If you survive the laning phase, continue to be play cautiously when Tristana is nearby, as her E plus ignite cancels out your healing, therefore you can still be bursted from 100% HP late game by her.

Vladimir - [EASY]
    A Vladimir pick always puts a smile on my face as Swain wipes the floor with Vlad.
    You should aim to kill him at level 4, so ask your jungler to come at this time.
    Start Dorans Ring for the HP pool + ability power, and E + 1 or 2 auto attacks every time he’s in range as long as there aren’t too many enemy minions around.
    Try to make sure he stays at 50%-75% HP, then, at level 4 your should engage with E-Q-W and ignite. Make sure to ignite early if you feel you have any chance of killing him as your e amplifies the damage! As a minimum, you will burn a flash. You should be able to kill him when he returns to lane as you will get a level advantage.
    Don’t forget to shove the lane to his tower if you force him to back.

Syndra - [MEDIUM/HARD]
    Syndra can be tricky, because her stun and E outrange you, and allow her to trade without a retaliation.
    Just do your best to CS. and ask your jungler for help, as she is an easy lane to gank.
    If you begin to play passively, a Syndra will likely shove the lane to your tower. You can still get the caster minions, if you use your E and Q to help you last hit them.
    Later in the game, use your Zonyas to cancel out her ultimate, and you should be able to duel her if you play it right.

Cassiopeia - [HARD]
    Cassiopeia is a B*TCH. The constant harass is simply too much for poor short ranged Swain.
    Try to keep moving to avoid the constant stream of Q’s.
    Late game you can fight a Cass, so as long as you survive the laning phase with at least 75% of her CS then you should outscale her.
    Be sure to try and juke her ultimate in a duel, by applying your E-Q, turning your ultimate on, then turning away, as you don’t need to face her to deal your damage.
    Other then her ultimate she has little CC, so if your jungler has a gap closer, request some help.

Karthus - [EASY]
    Karthus Karthus Karthus...he will outscale anyone, but if he steps out of position, show no mercy.
    Notify your team when Karthus hits 6.
    His Q’s deal 1/2 damage if they hit more then one target.
    Try not to stray too far from your minions when trading with him, as if he is able to land consecutive Q’s, he can deal quite a lot of damage.
    Either use your Zonyas or try to heal off minions to sustain his ultimate.

Anivia - [EASY]
    Try to deny blue buff.
    Make sure you get yours to push back.
    Easy lane pre 6.
    Your roaming is better.
    You have sustained damage to kill her egg.
    Personally I like to all in an Anivia at level 4, waste her egg then demand jungler attention...unless I’m able to kill that too...

Katarina - [MEDIUM]
    Usually becomes a farm lane.
    She can’t out trade you pre level 6, but at the same time most Katarina players play scared against a Swain.
    She’s annoying because she either ward hops or jumps to a minion when you try to fight her.
    Just try to out farm, however some E + Auto combos are useful to get some lane dominance.
    She can all in you at level 6 if you don’t have a flash to respond to her ultimate, so be weary of that, otherwise it’s a simple farm fest.
    Katarina’s roam a lot, follow her.

Twisted Fate - [EASY]
    You can out-trade him, and his lack of escapes makes him easy to all in.
    His roaming with his ultimate are a pain, but usually you can put a TF far enough behind that the ganks aren’t as effective.
    If you get your combo off before he gold card’s you, you will be able to chase him down.
    If the TF player is starts spamming out wild cards, respond by auto attacking the minions instead of last hitting, then, when the minion wave begins to thin out, try to fight him. If he’s scared, he’s hardly going to push is he? And believe me, he’ll be scared once your done with him!

Lux - [MEDIUM]
    Lux lanes often become farm lanes, as most Lux players play safely, harassing from a distance, clearing the wave with E and avoiding all in fights. This can be a little tough pre level 6, as Swain goes OOM very quickly when trying to push, and he doesn’t have the sustain from his ultimate until 6, however, if you can reach level 6 with respectable CS, Lux becomes your b*tch.

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Useful Tips And Tricks

Use your Torment and Decrepify BEFORE you try to snare sounds simple doesn’t it? But I see so many Swain’s attempt to snare opponents with Nevermove before using their combo.

Make sure to harass at least a little in any [EASY] or [MEDIUM] lane, to make use of the mana that you are recovering with your passive Carrion Renewal.

When an enemy uses Zhonya's Hourglass in a team-fight, count out loud: “ONE, TWO” then snare that scrub, your snare should hit them just as the Zhonya's Hourglass active subsides. I say to count to two, because when there is pressure, it is not uncommon to rush your counting without realising.

If you get caught, with team-mates nearby, just ultimate and activate Zhonya's Hourglass. You’ll be back at full HP in no time!

Thanks to Swain’s sustain, he solo’s blue buff really easily. If your jungler isn’t around at 7:15, shove your lane and go take that thing.

I’ve found that bottom lane is often the easiest lane to gank. Just ask your bot lane to shove to tower, then take a route through the enemy jungle avoiding all enemy wards and pop out behind their tower when your minions reach the tower and with some help form your bot lane - BOOM! Double kill.

Post level 6, feel free to shove your lane to the enemy tower, then go farm your wraiths or wolves before returning to a reset lane. This is a great way to build up a CS advantage.

When in a difficult lane, try to last hit as your opponent goes for one of their own cs, that was they become locked into their auto attacking animation and can't hurt you (with the exception of abilities)

If you feel you have the damage to kill your opponent simply wait for them to last hit a cannon minion, as they go in for the last hit cast Nevermove

By putting the song “Surfing bird” on replay as you play, you unconsciously become a God at Swain. Fact.

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Final Note

Please feel free to email me at: with any queries/requests for player match-ups descriptions. Also, a big thanks to JhoiJhoi's guide on how to make a guide, it was very helpful. If you have any intention to write a guide, this is the place to start:

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Change Log

20-08-2013 ~ Guide Created!
21-08-2013 ~ General editing + defensive items added to the items segment.
26-08-2013 ~ A few spelling mistakes fixed + glyphs changed to scaling m/r and runes added to RoA hater's build.
26-11-2013 ~ Introduction updated + separating lines between tips added.
28-01-2015 ~ Removed RoA hater's build + altered masteries + altered information regarding Swain's passive and ignite + added aditional tips and tricks + added warding section + fixed images.

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On The Subject Of Trains...