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Swain Build Guide by Trophycase

Swain - A Calculated Risk

By Trophycase | Updated on August 23, 2011
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LoL Summoner Spell: Ignite


LoL Summoner Spell: Flash


LeagueSpy Logo
Support Role
Ranked # in
Support Role
Win 51%
Get More Stats


Hello, and welcome to my second MOBAFire guide. This time I will be talking about Swain - The Master Tactician, along with tips, strategies, builds, and guidelines that will help you become a better Swain, and all around, player. I am testing out a slightly different guide format this time, where I will go over skill and playstyle explanations before items, runes, and masteries.

Some things to keep in mind when using this guide:
  • Swain is not a true tank, you should not be initiating.
  • When playing a champion such as this, you should be a bit selfish. If using Nevermove to save a teammate means there is an 100% chance you will die, save yourself instead. THIS DOES NOT MEAN - "DON'T BE A TEAM PLAYER", ALWAYS SUPPORT YOUR TEAM!
  • Buy Sight Ward and Vision Ward. Think of them as an investment in yourself. You buy them you live, if you don't, you die or short yourself.
  • Always build and play situationally. Stagnant and static builds will get you nowhere against half decent opponents.
Swain is an extremely fun champion to play, perhaps my favorite, and if played properly, is one of the scariest casters in the game. He has amazing lane control and is difficult to kill.

Well that is my introduction, I hope you enjoy Swain - A Calculated Risk, and find it informative, pleasing to the eye, as well as learn a thing or two about our favorite mage-tank.

Highly Recommended Reading: Skill Sequence, Spell Combos, Laning, Items, Runes, Summoner Spells, Masteries
Recommended Reading: Pros / Cons, FAQ's, Summary
Optional Reading: Change Log
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Pros / Cons

Swain is a very strong pick. He requires quite a few resources just to be shut down, including multiple Ignite or another reduced healing effect. He must be ganked often in mid and can shut down many opponents because of his sustain.


  • Brings great damage output to team
  • Enemies must devote resources to shut him down, or heavily focus
  • Very hard to gank / shut down in lane
  • Brings CC with Nevermove and Decrepify
  • Is a tanky-carry because of his Ravenous Flock


  • Missing Nevermove is slightly punishing to your comboing ability
  • Reduced healing effects such as Ignite are devastating
  • Very slow champion
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Skill Sequence

> > >
As Swain, you want to level your ultimate, Ravenous Flock at levels 6, 11, and 16. This is Swain's most powerful spell and what makes him such a mage-tank. Your other spell priority is Torment. Not only is it a great DoT that deals damage on par with Malefic Visions, but its coolest effect is that it increases all other damage dealt by Swain, even from Ignite (this is why it is so good on Swain). The next skill priority is Decrepify for the increasing slow, reduced cooldown, and increasing damage when you level it up. Then lastly, level Nevermove. This spell need only be ranked once early game for the root, as the duration does not increase with level. Although the damage increase is nice, the damage and scaling from Swain's other skills is more substantial. Not to mention it is slightly difficult to land this baby.


Decrepify - Swain sets his raven to cripple an enemy. Over the next 3 seconds, the target takes 25 / 40 / 55 / 70 / 85 (+30% of ability power) magic damage per second and is slowed by 20 / 23 / 26 / 29 / 32%.

Cooldown: 8 / 8 / 8 / 8 / 8
Cost: 60 / 70 / 80 / 90 / 100 Mana
Range: 550

Ahh the trusty laser bird. This is the third skill priority with Swain. It deals quite a large amount of damage and has a substantial slow. It also has the best scaling of all of Swain's abilities (90% of ability power because it ticks 3 times). This spell used in conjunction with Torment and a successful Nevermove can bring an enemy very low or even get a kill. Generally you want to use this after landing Torment and Nevermove so it does increased damage and cannot be outranged, however, you may need to use this to slow the enemy before Nevermove to land it if the enemy is very quick or alert. (See spell combo section) In teamfights, one will want to use this on either the focus target, or an anticarry ( Xin Zhao) that is sitting on the team's carry ( Ashe) to help him/her escape.


Nevermove - Swain marks a target area. After a short delay, mighty talons grab hold of enemy units, dealing 80 / 120 / 160 / 200 / 240 (+70% of ability power) magic damage and rooting them for 2 seconds.

Cooldown: 18 / 16 / 14 / 12 / 10
Cost: 80 / 90 / 100 / 110 / 120 Mana
Range: 900

This skill is perhaps the most integral in Swain's deadly combo, if you land this ability along with the other spells. It will almost surely force your opponent back if not get the kill. Generally you want to get Torment off before using this spell, however sometimes that may not be possible, and you will have to settle for a bit lower damage. Decrepify may also be used to get the enemy in range of this spell. Either way, landing this, and learning to use it properly will ensure that you can be a very scary lane. The range on this ability is slightly farther than it may seem, as the middle of the spell only has to be in the spell range, so the circle of effectiveness can extend past the actual range of the spell. Use this tidbit to your advantage when an enemy is playing very conservatively.An example of how the range of Nevermove extends past the actual cast range of the spell, use this to your advantage!

When being chased by enemies, I generally drop this spell directly under me (or a bit behind depending on the distance) in order to snare the assailants. When using this against half-decent players who do not move in predictable patters, you may have to bait them into the Nevermove a bit, but against bad players, you can probably assume they will continue walking in a straight line.


Torment - Swain afflicts his target, dealing 75 / 115 / 155 / 195 / 235 (+80% of ability power) magic damage to them over 4 seconds. During this affliction, the target takes 8 / 11 / 14 / 17 / 20% increased damage from Swain's attacks. Damage increase applies to summoner spells and items used by Swain.

Cooldown: 10 / 10 / 10 / 10 / 10
Cost: 65 / 70 / 75 / 80 / 85 Mana
Range: 625

This is Swain's bread and butter lane harassment skill. Its decent range combined with its DoT and additional effect make Swain very scary. You may run in, Torment + Autoattack and back out, without taking too much damage from the opponent or minions. When playing against someone such as Vladimir, if they come in for a Transfusion just smack him with a Torment, Decrepify, and autoattack and he will be very sorry he tried to transfuse in the first place. If possible, use this before all other spells as it will increase the damage output from them. Don't forget its interaction with Ignite and Deathfire Grasp as well. The bonus damage from this effect can deceive the enemy into think they are safe but are actually in for a world of hurt.

Ravenous Flock

Ravenous Flock - Toggle: Swain transforms into the form of a raven. During this time, up to 3 lesser ravens strike out at nearby enemies each second. Each raven deals 50 / 75 / 90 (+20% of ability power) magic damage and heals Swain for half of that amount.
The cost to sustain Ravenous Flock increases by 5 / 7 / 9 mana each second.

Cooldown: 10 / 10 / 10
Cost: 25 / 25 / 25 Initial Mana Cost Per Second
Range: NA

The most powerful spell that Swain possesses, and it's what makes him a unique and fun champion as well as defining his role as mage-tank. This will ensure near ungankability, infinite lane-sustain in combination with Carrion Renewal and a powerful force in teamfights. This spell is also what makes blue buff so valuable on Swain, as he can sustain this for almost the duration of a teamfight. I use this when laning to recover a bit of health after the enemy and I have exchanged a bit of harass. It should also be used after landing a spell combo to get that extra bit of damage on them that may make all the difference. When being chased by an enemy close behind, you should leave this on to get the smell amount of healing that will save your life, but be careful of leaving it on too long and not having the mana for that Nevermove. In teamfights, you should have this toggled when you are in the middle of enemies. But remember, YOU ARE NOT A TANK, JUST DURABLE! Do not run into the center of enemies in a teamfight, Swain's primary role is still a caster, but if you are in the middle of the fray, make sure to toggle this on.

Carrion Renewal

Carrion Renewal - Whenever Swain kills a unit, he recovers 10 mana (+1 per level).

This passive is a great one, allowing Swain to sustain himself in the lane for an almost indefinite period of time. With this and Philosopher's Stone, you will have the mana to have a spell combo prepared quite often, keeping never ending fear in the heart of the enemy!

Spell Combos

This is perhaps the most important aspect of playing Swain. His skills just have beautiful synergy with one another and it is important to utilize this to the fullest if one hopes to get the most out of Swain. When utilizing Ignite, keep in mind that its range and duration is very similar to Torment so use it after Torment whenever possible. Ignite, in conjunction with these spell combos will almost assure you a kill on all but the most durable solo mids.

Your preferred spell combo is this:
> >
It is important to get Torment off before using all other spells because it will increase the damage of the others. Also, being in range for Torment means being in range for Nevermove, so keep this in mind when harassing with it. We want to follow up with Decrepify and Ravenous Flock inside the snare, as it will ensure that the full duration of Decrepify will tick. Make sure to autoattack in between each spell to maximize damage. Properly landing this spell combo in lane can almost assure a kill.

The next spell combo to use if the enemy is playing conservatively:
> >
This is a spell combo that I use often if the enemy will not allow you in range to get a Torment off first. If one can land Nevermove, quickly run up to the enemy and throw a Torment and Decrepify on them while turning on the ultimate. This will not maximize damage, but it will still punish the enemy very severely.

A third spell combo for quick enemies, or if having trouble landing Nevermove:
> >
> >
This combo can be used if you just can't seem to land that Nevermove on the Master Yi with Zeal. The slow from Decrepify will slow down that enemy and allow an easily placed Nevermove. Many times, the duration of Decrepify is only long enough for a Nevermove, but you may be able to sneak a Torment in between to maximize the damage of the combo. This combo is sub-optimal, so I only recommend it when trying to pin down that quick enemy or trying to keep that enemy that used Ghost in range until Nevermove comes off of cooldown.
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Note: You should buy at least one Sight Ward almost every time back, unless your support and jungler are feeling very generous with the Sight Wards

Choosing a Lane

Lane match ups in League of Legends are extremely important, therefore picking the proper one can give you a huge advantage. As Swain, going solo middle is generally the best choice, as you can shut down many mids, need the levels, and are pretty ungankable. There are times when you may solo top and also duo bot lane with a CC heavy laner. However, as an AP carry, levels are the most important thing for you, so a solo lane is preferable. Swain's very early game is weak, so try to avoid champions such as:
who have very powerful early games. Other champions to be careful of are those with healing reduction effects: Tristana, Miss Fortune, Katarina who can cut your ultimate's healing effectiveness in half.

The current metagame usually calls for the AP carry to go middle, but if their main AP dealer is a large anti-caster such as Veigar or LeBlanc, it might be a good idea to take top lane instead. But of course, always choose the lane based on what the team needs.

Early Game

This is the most difficult stage of the game. You must play conservatively! I cannot stress this enough, and especially without Doran's Ring you are very fragile until you get a few levels. So sit back, last hit, and if they do come in range, smack em with a Torment and autoattack. You can take a bit of punishment with Regrowth Pendant and your Health Potion, but not too much at one time.

At level 2, if you are able to land a Nevermove and your opponent is down a bit of health, you may be able to get first blood with Torment and Ignite combo, but it is a bit iffy. Either way, it can be very punishing to your enemy and you may be able to force them back or start zoning them even before you hit level 6.

At level 4, when you finish your spell combo after getting Decrepify, you become extremely scary. If you land a spell combo at this point, assuming you have even minimal harass, you may be able to get a kill. If you have proven to your opponent that you are able to land a Nevermove or two, you might be able to begin trying to zone.

After you hit level 6, this is where the fun starts. You will have Ravenous Flock and Philosopher's Stone soon if not already. You are nearly unkillable and can lane indefinitely. You also have extremely powerful harass with Torment and can punish an opponent that gets too close. Generally you should continue last hitting with autoattacks and only turn on your ultimate during a spell combo or to recover health from a bit of harass your enemy dealt. At this point, the key is harass! With your ultimate, you can soak much more damage than your lane opponent, and put them within killing range if you land a spell combo, this allows you to zone, or force the enemy back.

Mid Game/Ganking

Entering midgame, you should be well on your way to your Rod of Ages. And should have a bit more freedom in the lane. Try to continue zoning if the game seems to be pretty passive. But when you get the chance, you can try to gank top or bottom lane. Any time it seems clear, you should be encouraging and helping your jungler do dragon, as it gives 190 global gold, which is quite a bit. As you begin to quickly farm the lane, take advantage of the wraith and wolves camp and kill those in between creep waves. If your lane opponent is missing, try to push to the tower and get a bit of damage on it.

When ganking, you want to try to get your teammates to bait the enemy into moving farther into hostile territory than they should be. How they do this is another story, but as soon as they do, open on them with a Nevermove and jump on your focus target, this will almost assure a kill unless there is a well timed flash or they are very bulky.

Beginning mid game, your jungler should start letting you have golem buff nearly every time it is up. You can basically leave your ultimate on twice as long, and have near capped cooldown reduction. Later in the game, you should be getting blue buff as often as possible.

Last Hitting

Possibly the most important part of League of Legends. In comparison to other MOBA's such as HoN and DoTA, the last hitting in League of Legends provides a huge amount of gold compared to kills. Because of this, if one wants to be successful at the game, you must be successful at last hitting.

Out of all of my champions, I find Swain's autoattack animation to be one of the worst (maybe behind Morgana), so combined with the low base attack damage, it is a bit difficult to last hit on Swain. But that should not deter you from trying your best! When last hitting, you want to wait until the creep gets very low and then hit it with an autoattack to make sure your minion wave pushes as little as possible. This involves being able to time your autoattack accordingly with the rate of damage the creep is taking. Sometimes, there will be two creep that get low at the exact same time and there is no way to kill them both with an autoattack, so you must anticipate this and gauge the rate at which each creep will fall! You will want to hit the one that is taking damage faster with an autoattack, and then the one taking slower damage with a Torment or Decrepify. This will hopefully ensure you get both of them.

If you are getting pushed to your tower by that pesky Malzahar, it is important to learn how to last hit at the tower. This varies slightly by what level you are and how hard your champion hits. Here is a general rule of thumb:

For melee minions: Usually each melee minion will take 2 tower hits and 1 autoattack to kill. So wait for 2 tower hits and then smack it with an autoattack afterwards. (After the tower has attacked the minions a few times, you may be able to treat them as caster minions).
For caster minions: Usually each caster minion will take 1 tower hit and 2 autoattacks to kill. So you want to make sure to autoattack each caster minion once before the tower targets it, and then after it takes a hit of tower, last hit it before the next tower strike.

Manipulating the creep wave properly is very important! The easiest way to last hit is to tank the minion wave right in front of tower range, so the tower cannot attack it. Swain can do this very well with his Ravenous Flock, so learning to do this properly can improve your play.

Late Game/Teamfighting

Proper skill execution and micromanagement is crucial to late-game teamfighting success. At this point, you should be getting every blue buff and your team should be grouped up to push/baron attempt. Perhaps the most important thing to remember as any champion in the late game. DO NOT RUN OFF ALONE! If you die alone, the enemy team will be able to attempt baron, where you are forced to engage, or have to let them have a massive advantage.

In teamfights, it is important that you focus the proper target. Splitting dps can be detrimental to the outcome. You need to ensure that the focus target is the one you are killing. Also, if you are not being focused, the enemy is most likely trying to focus one of your squishy carries such as Ashe. So when the enemy tanks or assassins get near your Ashe, you need to properly use Nevermove after they have closed the gap, allowing Ashe to escape. This is when the kiting can begin and you can start whittling down your enemies. After you have accomplished this, you need to use Torment, Decrepify on the focus target, and turn on Ravenous Flock for the chain slow due to your Rylai's Crystal Scepter.

After you have won a teamfight, it is important to get your objective, but without overextending. I cannot tell you how many times I have pushed, overextended, gotten counter-aced, and lost a game. Take it from experience, not getting that inhibitor is better than getting aced. When you are pushing, it is important not to get distracted. Meaning that you should be focusing that tower rather than that Corki firing missile barrages from the back. The tower is worth more than the kill!
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From our item build, we are looking to create a tanky Swain that can bring utility as well as some great damage output for the team. The health and mitigation provided should allow you to stay in the fray for a bit with your ult. In addition, you should also be able to sit back and cast if need be, and deal significant damage to the focus targets, as well as rooting assassins and tanks in place with Nevermove.
It should be noted that my item build is by no means set in stone, build situationally EVERY GAME.

Possible Starting Items

+ >Philosopher's Stone+
Philosopher's Stone - I love Philosopher's Stone. The health and mana regenerations provided are amazing for lane sustain, and really allow for the spell combo spamming. The gold per 10 is also amazing. It can really give you the advantage in your lane and pay for those Sight Wards and potions. This is one of the most cost efficient items in the game, if not the most. Read here for more analysis on this item.

Doran's Ring - This will provide you with early health, ability power, and mana regeneration. A very powerful item. It can be dangerous to start out with 4 health bars and no extra mitigation, therefore Doran's Ring provides you with everything you need early game for heavy handed harass and durabililty.

Your Core Items

A slightly expensive core, however this will provide Swain with the perfect balance of survivability, power, and utility.
>Catalyst the Protector> > > >

Mercury's Treads vs. Sorcerer's Shoes - This could be up for a lot of debate. Much of it depends on what the enemy team looks like. If there is little crowd control, or a lot of reduced healing effects (3+ Ignite is usually my rule of thumb), I will generally go Sorcerer's Shoes. But if they are lacking in the healing reduction or have a lot of crowd control, and it looks safe to go full mage tank over AP burst, then go ahead and get Mercury's Treads. If you choose to go Sorcerer's Shoes, you may want to move Abyssal Mask or Spirit Visage a bit further up in the build order as well.

Rod of Ages - This is very core on Swain. The ability power, health, and mana that increase over time as well are just invaluable. Getting this will make you a powerhouse that is very difficult to kill.

Rabadon's Deathcap - I have changed my mind about how early one should get this item. I think that going straight to Rod of Ages and Rylai's Crystal Scepter really leave you lacking in the ability power department, so I think that you should get this to really carry your damage through mid game, without it, I feel like you lack a bit of that killing power unless you get a bit fed.

Rylai's Crystal Scepter - Another superb item for Swain. Not only will your Torment now slow and Decrepify slow even further, but now your ultimate, Ravenous Flock, will be chain slowing the entire team. In addition to this effect, you also gain more health and ability power, both two stats that are great for our mage-tank Swain.

Abyssal Mask - A very underrated item. This will provide a hefty amount of ability power and much needed magic resist (especially if you didn't get Mercury's Treads) and provide an amazing aura for your team. Remember, this item can bring your enemy's magic resist below zero, so it works well in combination with other flat magic resist reduction items. I will get this before Zhonya's Hourglass if the enemy mages are doing well or I did not get Mercury's Treads.

Zhonya's Hourglass - Another amazing item. My favorite part is that it gives 2 seconds of free healing from your ultimate! Engaging this in the middle of the enemy team with Ravenous Flock activated will give a huge health regeneration and can turn a fight in your favor. So if there is an Ignite or reduced healing effect on you, engage this to outlast it, or recover some health. It also gives armor and ability power, allowing you to hit harder and be even tankier. I will generally get this before Abyssal Mask if then enemy physical carries are doing better, or if our team is caster-light, and do not need the aura it gives.

Other Good Choices

Quicksilver Sash - This is a very useful item if you want to get rid of some of those obnoxious Ignite effects or other crowd control. Also great if you want a bit more magic resist. This item is surprisingly cheap for what you get.

Spirit Visage - A great choice on Swain, not only will your ultimate heal for 15% more, but you also get magic resist and health at a pretty cheap price.

Will of the Ancients - I am not sure how the spell vamp interacts with Ravenous Flock, but from what I gather about spell vamp, it should provide 8.33% per raven, which, with ~375 AP deal about 100 damage (assuming ~70 MR per champ). So the spell vamp would provide an additional 8 healing, which, when compared to the other item choices in this slot, is pretty minimal. The aura this gives does help the team quite a bit though, and I might get this if you are caster heavy. Though with the recent patch, this in combination with Spirit Visage can bring your healing back to previous levels.

Void Staff - You can get this if you did not take Mercury's Treads and they have some heavy magic resist stackers on their team. Using my maths, I have calculated that with 9 Greater Mark of Magic Penetration, Archaic Knowledge, and Sorcerer's Shoes, the enemy would need 88 magic resist (~68 magic resist without Sorcerer's Shoes to make Void Staff penetrate more MR than Abyssal Mask, and this is disregarding the aoe aura that can bring enemies below zero. (Not to mention Abyssal Mask has magic resist as well and is only slightly more expensive). However, if you decide that Mercury's Treads are the right boots to go, then Void Staff is a great choice.

Banshee's Veil - Great item if you want the bubble, magic resist, health, and mana. You can never really go wrong with this item. This is almost a must have if the enemy team has an anti-caster or heavy nuker (e.g. Veigar, Kassadin, LeBlanc, maybe Annie)

Deathfire Grasp - This synergizes with Torment quite well. And can fit in with a more burst mage role if you choose to go that route. You can use this along with your normal spell combo to burst down that focus target.

Eleisa's Miracle - You can build your Philosopher's Stone into this if you didn't get the tenacity from Mercury's Treads.

After you finish off whatever build it is you choose to go, be sure to buy Elixir of Brilliance--> Elixir of Fortitude--> Elixir of Agility--> Oracle's Elixir

My Typical Build:



Against Heavy Healing Reduction:

Against Heavy Crowd Control/Magic Damage:

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As Swain, your rune set is very flexible. Many of them are personal preference and are chosen to suit your personal playstyle.


Greater Mark of Magic Penetration - Pretty much standard on any caster, makes every single one of your spells hit harder, especially late game. There are really not many other options that are any good in this slot for Swain.


Greater Seal of Scaling Mana Regeneration / Greater Seal of Replenishment - I like these for Swain. Although you have Carrion Renewal and Philosopher's Stone, I feel like these help sustain your laning, ultimate, and allow for continuous casting. You can really choose whichever you prefer, though you shouldn't have too much trouble keeping mana up in the lane.
Greater Seal of Armor - These are another great option if you feel you don't need the extra mana regeneration. They will make you a bit tankier and much more difficult to kill.


Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power - These provide a hefty amount of ability power at level 18, and can give you that extra power behind your spells.
Greater Glyph of Cooldown Reduction - These can provide a nice amount of cooldown reduction all throughout the game. It allows you to get that Nevermove, Torment, or Decrepify off more often, something very beneficial to Swain.
Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist / Greater Glyph of Magic Resist - I have changed to these since I decided to go Rabadon's Deathcap much earlier, and since Sorcerer's Shoes are much more viable (since the nerf). Take these if you want to fit more into that mage-tank role. You might also need these for a bit of magic resist if you choose to take Sorcerer's Shoes.


Greater Quintessence of Ability Power - These are pretty standard on most casters. They provide a very nice amount of ability power for the early game and even late game. Your spells will hit just a bit harder and that can be the difference in the laning phase.
Greater Quintessence of Health - These are another good option, but I choose not to use them, because although the early game health is nice, I find that I need to play conservatively from 1-6 regardless of whether or not I have the extra health, so I feel that the flat ability power is just a better choice. It really depends on what playstyle you like. If you think you don't have enough health early with Philosopher's Stone, take these instead.
Greater Quintessence of Magic Penetration - These will really provide a great late game damage boost and make your ability power that much more effective.
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Summoner Spells

A must have on Swain. In combination with your Torment it does increased damage that can almost assure first blood with your spell combo. The reduced healing is also very useful for those pesky Vladimir, Swain, or any other garden variety healer.

I prefer this over Ghost. This spell can be used both offensively and defensively. Whether it's to land that surprise Nevermove or get that Torment + Ignite combo off on that escaping enemy, this spell has a wide range of offensive uses. Defensively, it is pretty self explanatory, create distance between that jungler with lizard buff, get out of that Cataclysm, or get a well timed Flash after Irelia's Bladesurge but before she can get that Equilibrium Strike off. Love this spell on Swain.

Other Options

This is another great spell that can used both offensively and defensively. I prefer Flash to this, however, it is a matter of what you are more comfortable with or enjoy. But I do think that Flash is a bit better suited to the playstyle of Swain. Regardless, this also is good because you can use it when being chased while still healing with Ravenous Flock, whereas Flash does not have that luxury. You can also chase enemies for longer periods of time using Ghost.

Good for getting back to the lane or setting up ganks with Sight Ward or minions. Can also be useful if you are getting backdoored by that Twisted Fate or want to finish off a tower that has a large wave of minions at it.

Don't Take

Cleanse - It is good, just not good enough to warrant taking over your other options.
Clarity - With your passive and blue buff, this will not be useful whatsoever.
Heal - This probably deals more damage than it heals, as it will put a debuff on that will cripple your Ravenous Flock.
Exhaust - Although great for shutting down a physical carry for a short period of time, Swain needs the Ignite and escapability the other summoner spells provide. This spell is better used on tanks. Also, with Nevermove and Decrepify, you should not need the slow to assure a kill.
Revive - A summoner spell that requires death to use does not promote good play. Many people using this will play more aggressively than they should thinking they can just resurrect. If you know you can use this properly and effectively then I suppose you could take it, but I feel even then, it is still outweighed by the other options.
Rally - Although the aura is helpful, the cooldown is too long and it gives gold to the opponents when killed. Not for use on casters anywho.
Smite - For junglers, do not take.
Fortify - Leave it for the tanks. Once again, although useful, the others just outweigh this summoner spell.
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For our masteries, we have pretty standard 9/0/21 masteries.

The 9 points in offense:

Archmage's Savvy - Extra ability power for the oomph on your spells. Decrepify, Torment, and Nevermove all have great ratios.
Deadliness - Only other point dump that gives anything in this tier.
Sorcery - Cooldown reduction on Swain is great. Especially early without golem buff and other sources of CDR.
Archaic Knowledge - 15% magic penetration will increase your spell damage quite substantially.

The 21 points in utility:

Good Hands - Better than perseverence, trust me on this one. 7 seconds cut off the late game death timer is far and away better than 1 health and mana every 10 seconds (the benefits of perseverence).
Perseverence - Point dump, as you need none of the summoner spell benefits in this tier.
Awareness - An extremely good mastery, will give you the level advantage or help keep up with others that take this. Whoever hits level 6 first in the lane can mean the difference between first blood and being killed.
Greed - I'll probably take a lot of flak for this, but with Carrion Renewal and Philosopher's Stone I just think the 1 mp5 is less useful than the 1 gold per 10. The 3 wards per game that it gives is, to me, better than having the mp5.
Meditation - Mostly just a point dump for this tier, although the mp5 is kind of nice.
Utility Mastery - Longer blue buff and baron buff, nuff said. Blue buff is Swain's buff, with blue, you are literally an unstoppable force unless heavily focused.
Quickness - Increased movement speed is great to easily land that Nevermove or escape a gank. Just a very useful thing.
Blink of an Eye - Reduced Flash cooldown.
Intelligence - Cooldown reduction. Very useful throughout the game.
Presence of the Master - Having Flash and Ignite that much more often can get that extra kill or save you from that gank.

Other mastery setups that may be beneficial to Swain include a 9/7/14 or a 0/9/21. These are both good setups, but I feel that the 9/0/21 setup complements the item and rune build better than these other options.
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Why do I choose Philosopher's Stone?
Well because it gives you the ability to harass and sustain yourself in a lane incredibly. When looking at it from a pure cost standpoint, the value of regeneration alone it gives is 150% more than its cost value (based off Regrowth Pendant and Meki Pendant). With the inclusion of the 5 gold per 10, which allows it to pay for itself in only 26 minutes and 40 seconds, and you may be holding it twice as long. Therefore you will be getting ~1200g worth of free stats plus an extra 400-1200 gold after it has paid itself off. All around just a great item.

When should I be buying Void Staff?
I would say a good rule to go by is if your 3 or more of your opponents have 100 MR or more or if you take Mercury's Treads, you should consider Void Staff, but you should definitely take into account the benefits of Abyssal Mask before buying (Do I need the MR? How many magic dealers does my team have?). Not only does Abyssal Mask provide an AoE magic resist reduction (meaning it can drop their magic resist below zero) but it also provides magic resist. The math I did on Void Staff calculated that it would take 88 magic resist on a single target to make Void Staff penetrate as much as Abyssal Mask (don't forget the AoE and MR). This is the case because it activates diminishing returns on your 15% magic penetration from the offense tree. So carefully weigh each option.

What is my job in a teamfight?
Your job is to kill focus targets with Torment and Decrepify, and keep assailants off of carries with Nevermove. You also want to take a bit of punishment with Ravenous Flock while providing slows with Rylai's Crystal Scepter.

When and how do I use my ultimate, Ravenous Flock?
You should be using this before each spell combo in the lane, you do not need to leave it on longer than 3-5 seconds, but the damage boost it will provide on the enemy is substantial. You will also want to turn it on quickly when you are down a bit of health in the lane, but be sure you don't use it too much or you will push. In teamfights, you want to use Ravenous Flock when the enemies are grouped up and you are near them, when the fight disperses ~10 seconds after the teamfight begins and you start chasing down enemies, etc. you will want to turn it off ASAP as it will just dry up your mana.

Why Good Hands over Perseverence?
Just looking at a benefit comparison, we find that in the late game (where death timers can be ~70 seconds) we slash 7 seconds off of that, which can be game-breaking. Looking at perseverence, with our 18 hp5 and 23 mp5 at level 18, 3 points in this mastery would give us .72 hp5 or ~1 health per 7 seconds and .92 mp5, which is almost nothing late game.
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Mind Games

Something that can give you a bit of advantage when playing, is giving a little taunt to your enemy. This will demoralize them and cause them to become angry and make more mistakes.

For example, sometimes after a kill, my favorite way to taunt is just the simple, one word: "Nevermore."

Anybody who gets the reference will become extremely enraged, and even if they don't get the reference they get annoyed. But it is important that you do not get caught up in your own game! If you become distracted, you are hurting yourself as much as you are hurting the other guy, don't get in an argument, just say a few words and let them stew in it.

This is the end of my Swain guide thus far.

If you enjoyed reading this guide or its appearance, check out my other guide Taric: The Gem Knight - Tanky/Aura/Support

If you liked the guide, give me a nice +1 and a comment
If not, tell me how I can improve and I will consider your suggestion. Remember, troll downvotes only hurt the quality of the guides on this site.
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Change Log

(This will include guide changes, and/or changes in relation to items or Swain himself).

6/7/2011 - Guide Published - Changed some aesthetics, added in Question/Answer in some sections. - Added Mind Games Section in Summary.
6/8/2011 - Added picture in Nevermove Section
6/9/2011 - Moved Question/Answer to FAQ's section, added in recommendedreading in intro.
6/21/2011 - Patch v1.0.0.120
Ravenous Flock now heals Swain for 50% of the actual damage he deals (instead of 50% of the raw damage he deals), but the heal is not reduced if the damage is shielded.

Spirit Visage now increases your lifesteal and spell vamp.

A massive nerf that cut the healing of Swain's ultimate by at least 33%. Thankfully, Spirit Visage+ Will of the Ancients combination got a large buff so they are now much more viable on Swain. It was also announced that Swain would be getting buffs to compensate for the large nerf (the nerf was a *perhaps* unintended consequence of the global change from raw damage healing to actual damage healing, such as on Irelia's Transcendent Blades)

6/30/2011 - Changed around the item order as well as runes to compensate.
7/8/2011 - Patch
Ravenous Flock: now heals Swain for 75% of the damage dealt versus champions and 25% versus minions instead of 50% regardless of the target.
This was not a buff, but an even bigger nerf, his healing in teamfights is still lower than previous levels and his lane sustain is just pitiful now. This really hurt.
7/26/2011 - Patch
Ravenous Flock now prioritizes champions
A buff that was a long time coming for Swain. Really helps his killing power in lane, especially when there are a lot of creep around.
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Trophycase Swain Guide
Swain - A Calculated Risk
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