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Build Guide by Bobbeth

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League of Legends Build Guide Author Bobbeth

Swain - My bird is hungry!

Bobbeth Last updated on January 15, 2011
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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.


Brute Force
Improved Rally

Offense: 9

Strength of Spirit
Veteran's Scars

Defense: 21

Expanded Mind
Blink of an Eye
Mystical Vision
Presence of the Master

Utility: 0

Chapter 1


09/01/2011 - Removed Zhonya's Ring from Non-Core item list and added Zhonya's Hourglass and Rabadon's Deathcap.



Hello and welcome to my guide on how I play Swain. Stated above, this guide features a build that may or may not suit you depending on your playstyle. Before you start reading, be warned of the gigantic wall of text below. Feel free to share any feedback in the comment section.

Why play Swain?

You may have heard many things about Swain such as he is not viable in the current metagame, or that his AP ratios are terrible. I would say that most of these statements are false. Swain is very underrated in my opinion, but he is nowhere near overpowered at his current state. Just a quick list of his pros and cons:

  • Good in all types of lanes
  • Flexible with items
  • Excels in most 1v1 fights
  • Not useless in team fights
  • Can be built an offtank
  • Very mana hungry
  • Slightly slow for escaping ganks
  • Short range on abilities
  • May be tricky to find a balance of AP and health
Unlike most other casters, Swain is actually quite tanky, so my build focuses on that aspect and making him more of an offtank/disabler. However, if you build too tanky, you won't do enough damage to be much of a threat to the other team to focus you; and if you build too much AP, you'll be too squishy to stay alive in team fights. You probably saw above that I use a 9/21/0 instead of the 9/0/21. This is just a personal preference. It helps me beef up a bit without the need of getting too much tank items, allowing me to find a nice balance of AP and health.

Jericho Swain, The Master Tactician

Swain is similiar in playstyle to Ryze. His pokes usually consists of bombing the enemy with spell combos before backing off, and repeat once his cooldowns are finished.

Passive - Carrion Renewal

(Innate): Whenever Swain kills an enemy unit, he recovers 10 - 27 mana (+1 each level).

Patch V1.0.0.107
  • Carrion Renewal now restores mana instantly.
Now similiar to Karthus's Defile, Swain restores mana upon last hitting. This is great during the laning phase, and will greatly help you with your mana problems and allow you to harass. This falters later on when your mana will be draining constantly in team fights.

Q - Decrepify

(Active): Swain sets his raven to cripple an enemy. Over the next 3 seconds, the target takes 25-85 (+0.3 per AP) damage over time and is slowed by 20%-32%.

Patch V1.0.0.103
  • Ability power ratio increased to 0.9 from 0.75.
Also known as "Lazor bird". This is where most of your damage comes from. Keep in mind that once used, the enemy can walk out of its range and end it early, so it is best used it after you snare your enemy along with Torment for maximum damage output. However, sometimes you may want to use it first to have a easier time landing Nevermove.

W - Nevermove

(Active): Swain marks a target area. After a short delay, mighty talons grab hold of enemy units dealing 80-240 (+0.7 per AP) damage and rooting them for 2 seconds.

Patch V1.0.0.103
  • Nevermove ability power ratio increased to 0.7 from 0.5.
This is usually what starts off your combos. When succesfully snared, you can run to your enemies and Q -> E (-> R) and repeat during the laning phase for good damage. Nevermove is also a great zoning ability to keep your enemies out of experience range. I level this first because it has greater range than your other spells, and is more ideal for harassing; but I max it last because only the damage increases. You may find yourself having a hard time snaring the enemy. Aim not for where they are, but where you think they'll move.

"The odds of hitting your target goes up dramatically when you aim at it." - Mr. Fortune Cookie

E - Torment

(Active): Swain afflicts his target, dealing 75-235 (+0.8 per AP) damage to them over time and causing them to take 8%-20% increased damage from Swain's attacks for 4 seconds. Damage increase applies to summoner spells and items used by Swain.

Patch V1.0.0.103
  • Damage increased to 75/115/155/195/235 from 72/110/148/186/224.
  • Ability power ratio increased to 0.8 from 0.6.
His bread and butter spell. I max this first because leveling this is like leveling all your spells at once (amazing, isn't it?). If you use the snare first combo, it's okay to use Decrepify first before this because if used fast enough, you can get the damage boost started before the first tick of damage from your Q. This has a slightly larger range than Decrepify, so you can use this to harass if Nevermove is on cooldown.

R - Ravenous Flock

(Toggle): Swain transforms into the form of a raven, during this time up to 3 lesser ravens strike out 50-90 (+0.2 per AP) at nearby enemies each second, one raven per target. Swain is healed for half the damage dealt by the Ravens.

Probably one of my favourite, cool-looking ultimate in the game. This is what I would consider to be your most important ability. Swain just isn't Swain if he does not morph and eat enemies! Use it to finish off enemies that are weakened from your combos. Use it during team fight for continuous damage. Use it during the laning phase to recover some health. Use it while... yeah you get the point. Do note that this will drain your mana ridiculously fast, so determine how long you'll keep it on before you actually use it. Also note that you can use Zhonya's Hourglass while this is toggled on; this allows you to deal damage and heal without being killed in team fights.

A general guideline for how long you should keep it on:
  • Healing/laning - No longer than 4 seconds
  • Chasing enemies - No longer than 5 seconds if it doesn't target them
  • Team fights - No certain time, but keep your eye on your mana; once your mana drops to around 10%-20% be ready to turn it off



Like I said, I go for a 9/21/0 build instead of a 9/0/21 build. I feel that the defense mastery tree has more to offer than the utility mastery tree for this specific build. You can try both out and see which is more to your liking. Here's just a quick comparison of what you'll be getting and what you'll be missing with a 9/21/0 build.

You'll Have:
  • Health regeneration based on 0.3% of your total maximum mana
  • 60 extra health at level 1
  • Increased AP by 4% of your total AP amount (similiar to how Zhonya's Ring works)
  • 4% less damage taken from any source of attacks
You'll Be Missing:
  • 5 mana regeneration per 5 seconds
  • 3% movement speed increase
  • 15 second cooldown reduction on Flash
  • 15% cooldown reduction on your summoner spells
If you do decide to go for a 9/0/21 build, however, there are some things you should know.
  • Perseverance is a terrible mastery; for every 100 regeneration per 5 you have, you'll get 4 extra regeneration per 5 only
  • Expanded Mind works well with an Archangel's Staff
  • Greed generates 6 gold per minute, or 360 gold per hour
Consider these facts to know which masteries are right for you.


When buying runes, there is one thing you have to know: runes are imbalanced. This is why you always see certain runes in every guide.

There is no better mark for Swain than magic penetration.
  • 9x Greater Mark of Insight
I have seen some people go with armor, but I feel that Swain needs that extra mana regeneration.
  • 9x Greater Seal of Clarity
This is where you can choose what you want. The decision is between flat cooldown, AP per level, and mana regeneration per level.
  • 9x Greater Glyph of Focus
  • 9x Greater Glyph of Force
  • 9x Greater Glyph of Clarity
The choices you have now is flat health, flat AP, AP per level, or a stat not found anywhere else: movement speed.
  • 3x Greater Quintessence of Fortitude
  • 3x Greater Quintessence of Potency
  • 3x Greater Quintessence of Force
  • 3x Greater Quintessence of Swiftness

Summoner Spells

Summoner spells are abilities that are not unique to a champion. From a list of 13 spells, each champion can choose 2.


This summoner spell synergizes very well with Swain's E, Torment, as the damage boost applies to it as well. Ignite by itself deals 410 true damage at level 18.

Flash at one point was considered overpowered, and was debated whether it was to be removed or not. They ended up increasing the cooldown by 15 seconds, which wasn't too bad. Flash still retains its use, from escaping ganks, catching fleeing enemies, or to position yourself better in team fights.

Cleanse has been nerfed previously as well, but is still great and will almost guarantee use every game. If it wasn't for Flash, I would take this along with Ignite.


Not as good as Flash in my eyes, but some people prefer this over it. Good for chasing down fleeing enemies.

Clairvoyance is an amazing summoner spell and atleast one person should get it on each team. However, Swain is not the best candidate for that.

If you find yourself with mana problems even with mana regeneration runes, this summoner spell may be for you.

Swain isn't too fast, so this will help you get around the map.

Ones To Avoid

Your ultimate already heals you.

This spell is considered to be **** on all champions with few exceptions. Swain is not one of those exceptions.


Oh wait, you need to know what items you want first!

Core Items

You'll notice I only have 3 items in the item section above (excluding Doran's Ring). This is your core, and the items you will get first. Swain is very flexible, and I find that any other items are totally up to personal choice. But first, why are these items your core?

Tear of the Goddess
Swain can drain mana very fast in team fights. Although he can't spam abilities to rack up mana with Tear of the Goddess like other champions, it will still slowly build up and prolong the usage of his ultimate when needed. This can later be upgraded into a Archangel's Staff for a good amount of AP.

Mercury Treads
You can pick Sorcerer's Shoes or Boots of Swiftness over this, but Mercury Treads is my boot of choice. Without Cleanse, Mercury Treads will reduce the duration of disables and possibly save your life in many situations. After all, a stunned/slowed/feared/taunted Swain is a useless Swain!

Rylai's Crystal Sceptor
I feel that this item is a must-have for every Swain. It has a good amount of health and AP, and its unique passive is just DELICIOUS. It stacks with your Q and makes it slow your enemies even more, and makes your ultimate even more threatening. Need I say more?

Non-core Items

There are many, many other items that are perfectly fine on Swain. Here, I'll list ones that I find popular and useful. I'll also give them a personal rating out of 10 on how well they work on Swain.

Zhonya's Hourglass - 9/10
With the old Zhonya's Ring removed, in comes Zhonya's Hourglass and Rabadon's Deathcap to take it's place. In my opinion, Zhonya's Hourglass is definitely more suited for Swain, as it also has armor to further bulk him up. It also saves the active that allows you to pop your ultimate in the middle of team fights and be invulnerable when you get low on health. Note that unlike Zhonya's Ring, it's active is on a 90 second cooldown instead of 60.

Spirit Visage - 8/10
My personal favourite on any champions with a heal of some sort. I usually get this after Rylai's Crystal Scepter. This item may seem pretty lackluster at first, but look more closely! "Increases healing and regeneration on yourself by 20%". This means that your ultimate heals 20% more than the original amount. This may seem like nothing, but it helps tremendously in team fights. It also gives a small amount of cooldown reduction, which this build lacks. I gave this item an 8 just because of the common Ignite that screws all Swains over.

Rod of Ages - 8/10
It may seem odd getting this mid/lategame, but note that it only takes 10 minutes to reach its full potential. This item has everything Swain wants: AP, health, and mana that synergizes well with an Archangel's Staff. I recommend this item if you have a spare slot for it.

Rabadon's Deathcap - 8/10
The other item that replaced Zhonya's Ring. This gives an insane amount of AP, which is awesome if you're looking for damage and not survivability. I wouldn't prioritize this, but I would consider getting it late game when my core and some important non-core items are completed.

Deathfire Grasp - 7/10
Some people say this is useful, others say its useless. I personally find that in a tanky metagame such as the one we're in right now, it helps a lot with taking down enemies. Note that it gets a damage boost from Swain's E, giving him another burst to use at his disposal. I gave this item a 7 just because the range of it is a little depressing, and that its only truely effective against a team full of tanks (which seems to be everywhere these days actually).

Abyssal Scepter - 7/10
Even though it provides a good amount of AP, magic resist, and even magic reduction, I wouldn't advise getting this unless your team or their team includes many casters.

Lich Bane - 7/10
Many recommend this item, but I am unsure of how I feel about it. On one hand it gives plenty of AP, mana, magic resist, and valuable movement speed; but on the other hand it is pretty costly. I would only get this item if your team has been unable to push the other team's towers through midgame.

Will of the Ancients - 6/10
This item gives a decent amount of AP as well as Spell Vamp for its cost, but similiar to Abyssal Scepter, I wouldn't advise getting it unless your team includes many casters. There are better items you could be getting instead of this.

Aegis of the Legion - 6/10
This item isn't suited for Swain; it gives no AP whatsoever. The only time I would ever get this is if your team is getting steamrolled in team fights, and no one else has bothered to buy this.

Situational Items

There are a few items that I want to mention that will help you greatly in certain situations.

Mejai's Soulstealer
If you find you or your team getting many kills with little or no deaths in the early game, you should rush this item; otherwise just ignore it completely. Once you're able to successfully get plenty of stacks, you can just focus on survival items like Rod of Ages instead of worrying about damage items like Deathfire Grasp.

Banshee's Veil
Even with the recent nerf, Banshee's Veil continues to be a great counter against caster teams that rely on stun/snare combos. It also gives a good amount of mana and health as well as magic resist. If you need it, get this after you finish your core.

Quicksilver Sash
I have learned through experience that if there is a Malzahar/Warwick or a ridiculous amount of disables with you as the main target on the enemy team, you should get this item ASAP. Not being able to fight in team battles can be incredibly frustrating. This item works just like the summoner spell Cleanse except that it also clears suppresses from the two champions I just mentioned.


Early Game/Laning Phase

Start off by buying a Doran's Ring and a health potion. The Doran's Ring will give you a good start to the game with more health, AP, and some mana regeneration. After this, you have 3 types of lanes to choose from:
  • Mid, or middle lane (solo)
  • Bot, or bottom lane (duo)
  • -If you have a jungler- Top, or top lane (1v2)
I prefer taking mid, as its easier to deal your maximum damage output to just one target. However, if you have a strong mid champion on your team such as Ashe, let them take it and go bot. 1v2 is not your forte, and you'll mostly end up just tower-hugging. You'll want to start by occasionally harassing the enemy with Nevermove. Learn how they react to it. Do they back away? Do they ignore it completely? If they are playing fairly passively, focus on last hitting minions for now. If they are fairly aggressive, try to catch them with your snare and get a few auto attacks in before backing off. You start becoming more of a threat at level 4, when you can initiate a full combo repeatedly. Make sure to be always last hitting minions for gold as well as mana. Once you reach level 6, evaluate your opponent. Try to get them pushing and to less than 50% health. When both has been completed, its time to kill. Catch them with Nevermove, then go ahead with Q -> E -> R + Ignite. This should be able to finish them or force them to blue pill back. At anytime you reach 1,000 gold, go back to buy a Tear of the Goddess and maybe basic boots.

Mid Game

This is when it all starts to be about team fights and pushing. Make sure whenever your team is about to engage the other team, you're near the front; either behind the main tank or beside them. The target of your spells will be on the DPS who can deal large amounts of damage. If they happen to have a self-healer of some sort like Dr. Mundo, wait until they use their ultimate before using Ignite on them. When you find yourself fairly low health, Flash out of the battle and run around your team in circles. Hopefully the enemy will chase you allowing your team to pick them off. Whenever you can, try to pick up the Ancient Golem buff which will give you a great amount of mana regeneration. Also remind your team to ward and kill Dragon whenever it's up for the extra gold and experience.

Late Game

This is the ending phase where it is all about team fights. If one team scores an ace, the other will suffer greatly in terms of pushing, and may even spell defeat. Make sure to ward Baron to know if the other team is trying to kill it, which you would interfere and possibly even steal it. Don't try to kill it if the other team is all MIA and are not dead. There is a high chance that area is warded and they're waiting for you. Like in mid game, your focus is on the squishy on the enemy team and to disable them long enough for your team to kill them.

General Tips

1. If your enemy is playing very aggresively in the laning phase, go low health and try to lure them into thinking they can kill you if they turret dive. Snare them when in range of the turret and turn on your ultimate. You should be able to score a kill or two like this.

2. Wards are fairly inexpensive for what they can do. Map awareness is very important to avoid being ganked or to know what the enemy team is up to. Locations to place wards include bushes by lanes, Dragon, Ancient Golem, and Baron. Try to get your team to share the cost of wards instead of one person buying them all.

3. Communication is very important in a team game. Call MIA (missing in action) whenever an enemy is missing from your lane, and RE (returned) when they have reappeared. Discuss who to focus before engaging in a team fight. Ping the minimap if someone seems to be wandering around in a dangerous area.

Comments and Thank You

I have put a lot of effort into organizing this guide and trying to make it easy to comprehend. I hope you have learned a little something about Swain and the many ways you can play him. Please leave and comments or feedback on the build or the guide itself in the comment section.

Thank you!