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Swain Build Guide by Freakierhawk

Not Updated For Current Season

This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Freakierhawk

Swain, dominating the lane

Freakierhawk Last updated on January 8, 2013
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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

Honor Guard

Defense: 9


Utility: 0

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Hey everyone!

As this is my first champion build ever, don't expect it to be perfect, hehe. That said, the reason I wanted to share my way of playing the epic champion Swain is because he is extremely fun to play. I can't remember how many hours of fun I've had with this champ =D

This guide was originally intended to be a guide for the Twisted Treeline , but no one, that I play with, likes the new map, so I guess this will be a guide for playing Swain on Summoner's Rift .

Another reason I'm making this guide is to complete a school assignment that required me to contribute to an online community. What community would be better to contribute to than the Mobafire community?

Anyways, I'm pretty sure you didn't come to this guide to see me ranting on and on about things that have nothing to do with this champion =)

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About Swain

Swain is a ranged AP champion which excels at close/mid range combat. He is very tanky and can also easily carry your game. Swain's CC abilities Nevermove and Decrepify combined with his short cooldown ultimate Ravenous Flock will make him a very large threat for any enemy team.

Also, Swain's ability Torment will amplify all damage done by his spells or autoattacks, which means that he can do a very scary amount of damage to an unsuspecting enemy in a very quick combo.

If that wasn't enough, his passive ability Carrion Renewal will allow Swain to stay in lane almost indefinitely.

Whether you're facing a single enemy or an entire team, Swain will make quick work of them should they engage him.

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Pros / Cons

Why would you play Swain? Well let's see. There are a number of pros and cons to playing this champion. I will list a few that I have come across while playing him.


+ Very good lane sustain.
+ Several forms of CC.
+ Able to burst down champions.
+ Able to deal constant damage as well.
+ Quite tanky.

- Weak against control impairing effects.
- Must get close to deal alot of damage.
- Healing reduction cripples his survivability greatly.
- Not an easy champ to master.

There are alot of things about this champion that are really good, but you must be aware of his limitations when deciding what you do on the battlefield.

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As far as the runes go, the picks are quite diverse and I will explain the choices I have made for the runes I'm using in this build. The reason I am only showing you the Greater (tier 3) runes is that the lower tier runes are simply not worth spending your precious Influence Points on. If you are over level 20, then runes are DEFINITELY worth buying, as they can increase your champions performance greatly.


The quintessences I am using in this build are Greater Quintessence of Scaling Ability Power. These quints are quite good as you level up your champ. The reason I'm picking these over Greater Quintessence of Ability Power is that, although the starting AP is nice, the scaling quints will give more AP once you reach level 12 and up. That means you will continue improving your AP, which in turn, gives you more damage output.


The marks that I am using in this build are the Greater Mark of Ability Power x9. This increases my starting AP, which means that you can deal more damage to the enemy champion in your lane.

There are other options for this slot if you feel that this mark is not for you. These marks are Greater Mark of Magic Penetration or Greater Mark of Scaling Ability Power.


The glyphs I'm using, Greater Glyph of Magic Resist, are perhaps not the standard caster glyphs you would expect, but I find them to be very effective as it builds up your tankyness versus other casters.

There are other options for this slot if you feel that this glyph is not for you. These glyphs could be Greater Glyph of Mana Regeneration, Greater Glyph of Magic Penetration, Greater Glyph of Cooldown Reduction or Greater Glyph of Ability Power.


Perhaps also not the most common choice for casters, but I find Greater Seal of Armor to be quite effective on Swain as this seal builds towards his tankyness versus AD champions. The damage reduction just might be the decider between life or death in a gank or teamfight.

The other options for the seals are pretty much the same as the glyphs. You could use Greater Seal of Cooldown Reduction, Greater Seal of Ability Power, Greater Seal of Magic Penetration or Greater Seal of Mana Regeneration.

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With the coming of the new season, masteries have changed and I have remade my Swain page a little different than before by maximising damage output, while also stacking survivability. I will try and highlight some of the choices in this 21/9/0 build below.

The Offensive Tree

The offense tree is what you would expect of a typical caster build, it has the standard picks for pretty much all the caster mastery setups. Though there are a few things you could change, should you feel that this isn't exactly working for you.

In Tier 1, I have chosen Summoner's Wrath and Sorcery. These will provide you with a good starting amount of cooldown reduction and it will give you +5 AP/AD whenever your ignite is on cooldown. If you are having trouble last hitting minions, you could opt in spending 2 points on Butcher as this mastery will increase the damage on your basic attacks.

In Tier 2, there is really only one choice. This is ofcourse Blast . This mastery will give you 1 AP per level and it builds into the next tier ability which increases your damage output by a nice amount.

In Tier 3, you must at least pick Arcane Knowledge as it provides you with a nice 8% magic penetration. This mastery will make you do more damage. If you have not chosen the Butcher mastery in tier 1, then you should pick up 2 points in Havoc , as this mastery will increase your damage by a flat 1,33% at rank 2.

In Tier 4, the right side of the tree is the way to go. Mental Force for some extra AP and Spellsword to boost your basic attacks by adding 5% of your AP as magic damage.

In Tier 5 and 6, the choices are pretty standard as Archmage will boost your AP by 5% and Executioner will increase all damage you deal by 5% to targets below 50% health.

The Defensive Tree

With the latest update on items, I find it quite hard to run out of mana on Swain unless I am constantly using Ravenous Flock. This is the main reason I am no longer using the Utility tree. The cooldown reduction on summoner spells and the extended duration on blue buff is still nice, but not as nessecary as before. That is why I have picked some defensive masteries instead. This makes an already tanky champ able to take even more damage before having to back out of a fight.

In Tier 1, I believe there only one viable choice that will benefit Swain the most. Durability will give you a nice flat health boost per level.

In Tier 2, you are forced to upgrade your armor with Hardiness and your magic resist with Resistance , because Bladed Armor is grayed out and also pretty pointless for this champ anyway.

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Champions that play in the middle lane often have long-range skill shot based abilities. Swain on the other hand, does not. This means that Swain will have to move closer to his enemies than other champions. Luckily, once he IS in range for his spells, they will deal a surprisingly good amount of damage. Below is a list of all his spells.

  • Carrion Renewal (Passive): This ability is one of the reasons you can stay in your lane for an extended period of time. It also makes last hitting minions crucial. Once you are higher level, clearing minion waves will be easier, and will reward you with plenty of mana returns.
  • Decrepify (Q): This ability is one of your CC abilities, you will slow the target it's cast on and deals damage while it channels. Often the last priority in your rotation as it is best used when you are in melee range of the enemy.
  • Nevermove (W): This ability is the one that will make you overpower your lane and deal a ton of damage to your enemies. It can be used during the laning phase as a way to clear groups of minions or trap an enemy champion. In teamfights, try and use this ability to trap as many enemy champions as you can.
  • Torment (E): This ability is one of the strongest abilities Swain has. If cast on an enemy target, it will deal damage over time, but more importantly, it will make them take increased damage from your attacks. Use this as an opener to maximise your damage output.
  • Ravenous Flock (R): This ability is your Ultimate ability and it will transform you into a giant walking bird-man creature. It shoots out 3 ravens at nearby enemies and for each raven dealing damage, you will receive 50% of the damage dealt as health in return. Use this ability whenever you want to clear a wave of minions, need some heals or make that enemy champion regret his decision to come close to you.

Ability Sequence
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

At a first glance you might wonder why I don't max out Torment first, since it is clearly the most damaging ability. My goal, however, is not to deal the most damage I can. I want to dominate the lane, and to do just that, I will need my Nevermove to deal enough damage for me to scare the enemy champion into hiding at his tower and enough damage to effectively kill the minions. Torment is however the skill I max second, because it is much more efficient than Decrepify. The reason for this is that Decrepify requires a target to stay in range, otherwise it will stop channeling and you lose its effect as well as its damage. You should ofcourse take your Ravenous Flock whenever you can, because it will allow you to kill the minions even faster, while also making sure the enemy champion won't come near you (if he does, he will be very sorry ;)).
> > >

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Summoner Spells

Summoner spells are quite varied. Some spells are very useful to bring to a game, but there are also spells that are not as useful. I will list, what I believe are, the best summoner spells you can use when playing Swain.

Core Summoner Spells

Flash: If you are over level 12, then you will probably take this as your main movement spell. It provides great utility, whether you are chasing an enemy champion, or trying to escape from a bad situation. Be careful when using this to jump over walls, as it might not always work out the way you hope ;).

Ignite: This spell is the best offensive spell you can pick, simply because it gives you an extra dot that might just finish off that champ who otherwise had gotten away. When it is on cooldown it will grant you a damage bonus (if you picked that specific mastery).

Ghost: This spell is a great movement utility spell. It allows you to chase your enemies, or run away from a bad situation. Take this if you are not yet level 12, or you don't think Flash is the right spell for you.

Teleport: This spell is not an offensive spell such as ignite, but it will allow you to return to your lane very quickly when you are in your base. This spell also lets you teleport into other lanes where your teammates might need help. Overall, a solid spell to take if you lane in mid.

Optional Summoner Spells

Clarity: This spell could be worth taking if you don't have alot of experience with Swain and you are running into mana problems constantly.

Exhaust: This spell is a pretty good disable that you can use to slow your enemies. It is most effective against AD champs as it will slow their attack speed as well. However, it is not often that you will face an AD champ in the mid lane.

Heal: This spell is only worth considering if you have very little experience with Swain and it can help you to survive fights you might not have been ready to enter yet. You can also use it to help your teammates survive a gank/teamfight.

Barrier: Again, a very defensive spell designed to keep you alive in a bad situation. Take this if you don't have alot of experience playing Swain and you think you could use a lifesaver.

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In this chapter you will come across a list of items that I believe work great with a champion like Swain.

Starter Items

When you enter a new game, you have a few options in picking a good starter item. I usually go with Doran's Ring, because it is a great item that boosts health, mana regeneration and ability power. However, depending on your lane opponent, you could choose to bring boots and pots if you need to dodge alot of skill shots (or if you just like the movement speed bonus it gives).

Core Items

Here you have the items that you will want to build into over the course of the game. You don't necessarily have to buy them in this order, but I do advise to get Rod of Ages as soon as you can. The reason for this is that it requires time (10 minutes) to build up to its full potential.
If you are doing poorly on getting last hits on minions, you can buy all the smaller components and complete them at a later stage of the game. Some people suggest that dropping the nerfed Rabadon's Deathcap from the core items is not that bad of an idea, since there are a few items that could replace it. I personally think that the sheer amount of ability power it gives is still reason enough to buy this item.

Optional Items

The optional items are items that you could pick to finish your build once you've gotten your core items. If you like, you can also swap a core item for one of these. Here's a list with my thoughts on these items.
  • Deathfire Grasp: This item is very strong in the new season and should possibly be in the core items. However, I'm not that much of a fan of active items. The effect from this item stacks with your Torment, which makes it a solid choice.
  • Rylai's Crystal Scepter: I've always liked this item, simply because of the slow it gives when you hit your spells. This could mean a possible longer channel duration on Decrepify, a better chance of hitting Nevermove or just the overall damage you can land on an enemy.
  • Void Staff: This item is usually bought in the late game. As the game progresses, your enemies might stack magic resistance to minimize the damage they receive from you. With this item you can bypass some of that resistance.
  • Abyssal Mask: Pretty much the same deal as Void Staff, although this item will give bonus magic penetration for your entire team. This item can serve really well when you get up close and personal in team fights.
  • Zhonya's Hourglass: This is also an item that I could see being a core item, since it gives you a real high amount of ability power, but also a great deal of survivability. The passive armor bonus always helps you, but the active is the interesting part of this item. The active on this item allows you to become untargetable while your Ravenous Flock is active, giving you a few seconds of free heals and still deal damage around you.
  • Will of the Ancients: This item is a great way to boost your survivability, as it gives you spellvamp.
  • Spirit Visage: This item is often overlooked by players since it's not the typical caster item that you would get to round up your build. Although with Swains ability to heal himself in his ultimate form, this is actually quite nice. It will improve your survivability by a reasonable amount.
  • Seraph's Embrace: Finally, the former glass cannon item. Archangel staff is a good item to build for this champion now, since after you've filled up the stacks, you're rewarded with a good chunk of mana and a shield you can activate to absorb some damage.

Boots Upgrades

These enchantments are pretty much up to yourself to decide what you like, but I think these two are the most effective enchantments for Swain. Try and pick one of these up between mid/late game whenever you have some leftover gold.
  • Enchantment: Furor: This enchantment gives you bonus movement speed whenever you deal damage to an enemy. This makes it ideal for Swain since it will refresh constantly when you are close to your enemies in your ultimate form, making it easier for you to keep up with them.
  • Enchantment: Alacrity: This enchantment gives you a flat movement speed bonus, which is pretty great. Swain is not the fastest of champs, but this will make him keep up a bit easier.

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General Gameplay

In this chapter I will try and describe a few pointers you should keep in mind while playing in the middle lane. If you're completely new to this lane, you might want to find a good guide on this subject here on MobaFire, or do the tutorials in game.

Here are some tips:

  • Watch the minimap often: Good situational awareness can help you survive a potential gank on mid, see if a team mate needs help or to just notify your team what the enemy is up to.
  • Don't overextend: Don't push the minions near the tower unless you know that there is no way you can get attacked from behind. Possibly buy some wards for the river to make sure you can go ahead and push.
  • Communicate with your jungler/team: Good communication leads to better teamplay. If you keep your teammates informed about your lane opponent's whereabouts, they will know when to play more careful or when to come in for the kill.
  • Stay on the move: Rarely have I played games where I could just stand still by the minions and last hit them. Try and learn to move every few seconds, so the enemy champ has a harder time hitting you with his/her skill shots. This might take a little practice, as Swain isn't that fast, but a good tactic is to never move the same way more than once (to avoid patterns that your opponent can adapt to).

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Whatever way you play Swain, he will never stop to be amazing. Whether you are playing very tanky or just full AP carry, your enemies will run away from you as soon as they see you coming down the lane.

Should you have any questions or remarks about this guide, please feel free to post in the comments section. If this guide has helped you in any way, I would appreciate an upvote, but I won't force you. If you really feel the need to downvote, please leave a reaction as to why.

Finally, I would like to thank jhoijhoi for providing the tools that helped me create this guide. Excellent guides! =)

Good luck destroying your enemies!