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Swain Build Guide by Kamikaze

Swain, AP Off-Tank aka The Way He Should Be Played

Swain, AP Off-Tank aka The Way He Should Be Played

Updated on December 12, 2011
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League of Legends Build Guide Author Kamikaze Build Guide By Kamikaze 11 2 48,457 Views 30 Comments
11 2 48,457 Views 30 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author Kamikaze Swain Build Guide By Kamikaze Updated on December 12, 2011
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After careful consideration and a good deal of practicing I have completely changed the build into an OFF-TANK Build. This build focuses on a larger health pool and survivability as well as added crowd control.

Swain is awesome. That's pretty much all I need to say. He can dish out a good deal of damage, heal himself, control the movement of the entire enemy team, and survive almost any gank.

I cannot stress enough how good Swain can be with BLUE BUFF. More mana that you know what to do with, and enough CDR to spam your abilities which leads to more disables and zone control. If there is a champion on your team that is going to be needing blue buff then you should probably NOT pick Swain. A NOTE to players with a Swain on your team: If there's a choice between your Swain and someone else taking Blue Buff, let the Swain take it. Swain's damage and therefore zone control, disables, and ultimately your whole team in general will do so much better if he has it.

Just a couple games I had before I hit 30 :) The loss was due to 4v5 :(
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Pros / Cons of Off-Tank Swain

  • Good early game harass
  • Much more survivability than other AP carries
  • Fantastic crowd control
  • Great sustainability in lane with Ravenous Flock
  • Good AP ratios (0.7 on Nevermove, 0.8 on Torment, 0.9 on Decrepify)
  • Has 3 new jokes while in his Ultimate form

  • Fairly squishy early game
  • Some mana issues mid/late game without BLUE BUFF.
  • Doesn't have any escapes without running with Flash
  • Doesn't have a legendary skin yet :(
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Ability Descriptions

Carrion Renewal is Swain's passive. When Swain kills something (creep or champion) he regenerates mana equal to his level+10. This is what makes it possible for Swain to stay in lane extra long from the beginning of the game while dishing out a good deal of harassment. Focusing on last hitting minions in between harassment is a great way to keep your mana up. Another great use of his passive comes when you have low health. Simply turn on your Ravenous Flock and walk into or near a minion wave. You should kill the minions fairly quick and regen a decent chunk of mana for each one that you kill in addition to the health from your Ult.

Decrepify is Swain's "Q" ability. When cast, Swain's pet bird Beatrice shoots a laser at your target (giving it the nickname "Laser Bird"), slowing it and dealing damage. This ability is a tether with a fairly short range (~900) so it will break if the target walks too far away. This ability is Swain's largest source of damage. It has an AP ratio of 0.3 PER SECOND for 3 seconds. That's equivalent to a ratio of 0.9 for the full duration and a base damage of 25(+15 per rank capping at 85), again, per second. That's 255 base damage at rank 5 plus a 0.9 AP ratio. If Torment is active when Decrepify is cast then Decrepify will be even stronger. It will gain an additional 20% damage which will effectively increase its base damage to 30(+18 per rank capping at 102) bringing the total at rank 5 up to 306 with an equivalent AP ratio of 1.08. That is a lot of damage for an ability with a base cooldown of 8 seconds. Decrepify should be used AFTER Nevermove, not before. It is true that if you land his slow then it will be easier to his snare, but a good Swain should be able to land his snare without any help.

Nevermove is Swain's "W" ability. It is an AoE snare with a radius of about 250. This ability is what separates the good Swains from the bad. Landing this snare is pivotal to being able to play Swain well. Nevermove has base damage of 80(+40 per rank capping at 240) and an AP ratio of 0.7. In the next chapter I will give some tips on how to effectively land Nevermove consistently.

Torment is Swain's "E" ability and is basically what makes Swain very unique. Torment increases the damage of all of Swain's other abilities by 8%(+3% per rank capping at 20%). That is HUGE. If that were on any other AP caster it would be WAY OP. Think about it on Veigar... Event Horizon Torment Dark Matter Primordial Burst. I shudder to think. Basically this ability is friggin awesome. It makes his Decrepify hit that much harder. More than that, it increases the damage of his Ravenous Flock which in turn heals him for 15% more (75% of the additional 20% damage) when Torment hits a champion. Needless to say that this ability is what defines Swain as a champion in League of Legends.

Ravenous Flock is Swain's "R" ability also known as his "Ultimate." It is a toggle on a 10 second cooldown that when activated sends out 3 birds every second, prioritizing champions, dealing 90 damage at rank 3 with an AP ratio of 0.2, and healing for 75% of the damage dealt to champions or 25% of the damage dealt to minions when the birds return to Swain. This ability is just pure awesome. "Oh what's that? You're trying to gank me? Nah I think I'll just turn my ult on and lose no health. Good try though." This ability is what makes it possible for Swain to run into a team fight, get focused by a few champs and make it out alive and continue to gain health. The best part about this ability is that it transforms Swain into a sweet looking giant demon-looking raven thing. While in his ultimate form Swain also gains 3 /jokes :D
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How to use Nevermove

Puminor has already clearly described how to effectively use Nevermove in his Swain guide so I feel just fine pointing you in his direction. Here is a link to his chapter on Nevermove. Don't forget to come back here though! ;) I'll be adding some screenshots soon for those visual learners out there.
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Summoner Spells

As always, Summoner Spells are personal preference. That being said, these are the spells I run with 99% of the time:

Ignite is a must have for Swain. The damage is buffed by his E increasing the true damage to just under 500 at level 18. Provides great synergy with the dots he already has. Also, it's always nice to have at least one Ignite on a team anyway to counter regen based champs like other Swain's, Dr. Mundo, and Warwick.

Flash - Swain is just like most other mages in that he has a pretty low base movement speed. Even with boots 2 he only gets up to 380 movement speed so he desperately needs some sort of escape mechanism. The other reason I take flash is because Swain's ranges are pretty small. In order to get off his combo you need to be decently close to your target and sometimes that means getting close to their nuke as well (unless they are one and the same :P) which could be very dangerous. Flash helps you get out of that sticky situation. Aside from those Swain specific situations, Flash is simply the most versatile summoner spell in the game in my opinion. You can use it to escape a gank, reposition yourself if you realize you're in a bad spot in a team fight, initiate by flashing and then snaring their whole team, as well as in many other situations.

Other Semi-Viable Summoner Spell Options:
Teleport - I only take this spell if I am mid (which you should be), I know I'm going to be laning against a good early game harasser, AND the enemy team doesn't have a lot of CC. Just lets you get back to lane that much quicker. Also allows you to set up ganks very quick as you can teleport to wards and such. The only down side is that by taking this instead of Flash is that you are left without an escape mechanism which is only viable if the enemy team doesn't have much CC. Usually this is not the case making Teleport not viable.

If you aren't level 12 yet and don't have Flash, take Ghost. If you're level 12 or higher, take flash. Easy peasy.

The only other spell I could see Swain taking is Clairvoyance, because every team should have one. Your support or tank should be getting it, but in case they're an idiot go ahead and grab it instead of Flash. Not exactly ideal, but it happens.

Summoner Spells you might consider that you should definitely NOT take:

If you know how to last hit well, then Swain's passive should take care of any real mana issues you might have early game. Late game Clarity isn't very useful anyway so, don't take it.

Every other Summoner Spell is simply not going to be a good choice for Swain.
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Just as with Summoner Spells, Rune choices can be personal preference as well.
My rune setup doesn't really need much of an explanation, but I will provide a little anyway :).

Greater Mark of Magic Penetration are standard for every AP caster.
Greater Seal of Scaling Mana Regeneration Just to help with some of Swain's mana issues.
Greater Glyph of Scaling Ability Power for more late game pwnage.
Greater Quintessence of Ability Power for some added early game harass.

Other options:
In my opinion, Seals and Marks should stay as is, but you can play around with the Glyphs and Quints a bit. Some alternative glyph choices would be Greater Glyph of Ability Power for more early game harass or Greater Glyph of Scaling Magic Resist if that floats your boat. I would suggest either Greater Quintessence of Health, Greater Quintessence of Magic Penetration, or possibly Greater Quintessence of Movement Speed if you feel like getting crazy. The choice I leave to you.
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Masteries - 9/0/21

With the major overhaul of Masteries coming in patch there are now a lot more options than before. I decided to stay with a 9/0/21 Mastery setup as that still seems to be the best for Swain. I spec into both masteries that lower the CD on Flash as that is Swain's only reliable escape early/mid game. The rest of my decisions are pretty self explanatory: CDR, Mana, AP, some Spell Vamp for early/mid game health regen, MPen, time spent dead, and buff duration. I may end up moving the points out of Transmutation into either Swiftness or Greed . This will take some playing around with.

Until a decent amount of time has passed with these new masteries it will be hard to tell which ones are good and which are not. As it sits right now they look to be fairly balanced.
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A good chunk of this section can be attributed to Maphis. His guidance has helped me out quite a bit. That being said, lets look at the items that should go into a Swain Off-Tank build...

Starting of with Boots of Speed is very important for mid lane. The additional 50 movement speed is invaluable when soloing. Being able to run in, get off your dots, and run out before the opponent can even respond is absolutely amazing. Even if your opponent in mid lane also started with boots you at least aren't at a disadvantage. The added mobility is also extremely helpful in avoiding ganks. There really isn't any other option for off-tank Swain when laning in mid.

catalyst the protector
First trip back buy a catalyst the protector. Everything about this item screams "Pick me up during the laning phase!" So, we do just that. All of the stats are self explanatory.

These are going to be your next 2 purchases no matter what. You will need the magic pen from Sorcerer's Shoes in order to do any decent damage and the health and mana from Rod of Ages will keep you alive and dishing out damage. The ability power on Rod of Ages doesn't hurt either :)

After playing the Off-Tank style quite a bit I've realized that the added health from Rylai's Crystal Scepter has saved me numerous times. Because of that I have added it to my core build and moved Rabadon's Deathcap to the optional items list. Rabadon's is still a very good item and if you are doing well in a game I would get it right after Rylai's

This is the point where you are going to have to start assessing your situation in game.

Almost 100% of the time I would suggest purchasing Rylai's Crystal Scepter next starting with the Giant's Belt. Swain can always use some more bulk and Rylai's is a perfect item for that. The added 15% slow to all of his abilities (including his ult!) is pretty helpful as well.

If you aren't doing so hot either get a Chain Vest or Negatron Cloak depending on who is giving you the most trouble. Then finish up whichever one you got into its final form, either Zhonya's Hourglass or Abyssal Mask.

If you are still doing quite well after purchasing Rylai's Crystal Scepter your next best item will most likely be Rabadon's Deathcap. This item will turn you into a very powerful single target nuke.

Other Items to finish up your build

If you didn't already build a Zhonya's Hourglass or an Abyssal Mask earlier then you may choose to build one or both at this point. They are always helpful for the added resistances and, of course, for Zhonyas' active.

Banshee's Veil is just a fantastic item all around. More health and mana equates to more survivability and the spell shield is pretty helpful as well.

One of my favorite items to build on Swain. The spell vamp that it provides takes off-tank Swain's already bulky build and adds even more survivability to it. Also, who doesn't like more AP? :)

If you feel you are being focused down just a little bit too quick, consider building a Spirit Visage. It gives you some bulk, some added regen power to Ravenous Flock, and some CDR.

If you have used a Lich Bane before and have good practice timing your auto attacks between spell casts then go ahead and build one. This item is more of a straight AP caster item, but if you are doing well already then don't be afraid to buy it.

If the enemy team is pretty tanky and your AD carry or jungler refuses to get a Madred's Bloodrazor then consider building a deathfire's grasp. Some of the CDR will probably be wasted assuming you are getting BLUE BUFF, but we're building it more for the active than any of the other passive stats. While it isn't optimal in this ott-tank playstyle it will be quite beneficial to your team when that Mordekaiser loses 40%+ of his health in one blow.


Highest Damage
Sorcerer's Shoes
Rod of Ages
Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Rabadon's Deathcap
Deathfire Grasp
Abyssal Mask

Most Defensive
Sorcerer's Shoes
Rod of Ages
Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Zhonya's Hourglass OR Abyssal Mask depending on who is giving you the most trouble
Guardian Angel
Spirit Visage

Middle of the Road
Sorcerer's Shoes
Rod of Ages
Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Will of the Ancients
Zhonya's Hourglass
Abyssal Mask

The "Middle of the Road" build is probably the build I most commonly go with. It maintains good damage output while still building bulk on top of the core items.
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Skill Sequence and Rotation

I have switched my skill sequence around to start with Nevermove at level one. The snare can be invaluable if a team fight happens early in the game. This is most likely to happen if your team decides to try and gank at Blue, but it will be useful in lane as well.

My skill sequence focuses on maxing Torment first. 20% additional damage at level 9 is quite large. Next I focus on leveling his Decrepify to achieve the maximum slow as fast as possible. This combined with Rylai's Crystal Scepter's slow makes kiting any champ (except for yi, vayne, and maybe warwick =/) a breeze. And, of course, get a point in Ravenous Flock at levels 6, 11, and 16. I level Nevermove last because it has it's maximum duration at rank 1. Adding ranks to it will only increase its damage and mana cost and lower its CD while Decrepify is going to be our largest source of damage anyway.

Single Target
The primary rotation I use it this

Nevermove them in place, pop off Torment and then Decrepify. Decrepify will get off its full duration while Torment is active so as to get maximum damage.

If you are still getting used to placing Nevermove I suggest hitting your target with Decrepify first as this will make it much easier to land your snare.

If you're going for a kill you can, of course, throw in Ignite, preferably right after Torment and Decrepify. I suggest this rotation because I've had it happen where I popped off Ignite and then my target flashed away before I could get Torment and Decrepify off. It was frustrating to say the least.

Multiple Targets
Team fights are where things get more interesting. All the previous tips on how to play Swain (or any other champion) fly out the window. You can no longer be as aggressive as you were during the laning phase. You can no longer cast your spells at a random target and expect to help out your team. This is where you will need to prioritize targets and work with your team. If your tank initiates on their tank, don't join him. If your AD carry decides to run away for no reason, don't join him. If your Ashe shoots her Enchanted Crystal Arrow at their squishy little Karthus, hobble over to that sucker and unleash everything you have (except maybe ignite as that will probably be major overkill). Nothing is set in stone in a team fight. Everything is always changing.

Somethings to remember when in a team fight:
  • You are not the initiator. If you attempt to initiate Warwick will probably ult you and you'll die in 2 seconds.
  • You are there to control the movement of the other team. If you see an enemy player trying to flank you team, snare or slow him so your team can re-position.
  • If an enemy champ starts attacking your AD carry, disable him. If your AD carry dies, your teams damage will be severely gimped and you will probably lose the team fight.
  • Your job as Swain is always fluid. Sometimes you will be a babysitter to your AD carry. Sometimes you will be the nuke to burn down the enemy carries. Sometimes you will be the tank that takes aggro from the enemy team so that your AD carry can have free reign of their team. But most of the time your job is simply Crowd Control. Snare, Slow, Slow, Slow. That is the main point of Off-tank Swain. He controls the movement of the enemy team confining them to a space that makes it easier for the rest of your team to do what they are supposed to do.
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So yeah, that's pretty much it. Feel free to leave any comments or suggestions. I will be updating as often as I can. Thank you for reading :)
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8/24/11 - Build Created
8/25/11 - Added a bunch off BBCode at the guidance of Jhoijhoi's fabulous guide making guide.
8/29-11 - Added the second build and made some minor changes required to have 2 builds in the same guide.
8/31/11 - Removed the initial Glass Cannon build leaving just the Off-Tank build.
9/2/11 - Added Rylai's Crystal Scepter to the core build and moved Rabadon's Deathcap to the situational items.
10/3/11 - Made some minor changes. Changed some wording issues.
11/16/11 - Updated the Masteries section for patch
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