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Swain Build Guide by TheAnonymous1

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League of Legends Build Guide Author TheAnonymous1

Swain, the AP Sustain Tank of Top Lane

TheAnonymous1 Last updated on April 11, 2015
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Top Lane
Ranked #16 in
Top Lane
Win 48%
Get More Stats

Ability Sequence

Ability Key Q
Ability Key W
Ability Key E
Ability Key R

Not Updated For Current Season

The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.



Offense: 21

Legendary Guardian

Defense: 0


Utility: 9

Threats to Swain with this build

Show all
Threat Champion Notes
Nasus Deny him of his Q stacks like the Bird Man that you are.
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Hi. This is my first time making a guide but I'll do the best to explain to you how you can melt fighters and tanks in top lane with, in my opinion, one of the best AP Sustain Tanks there is: Swain, the Bird Man.

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About the Champion

All that Swain ever wanted was to unite Noxus under the banner of the Bird-Man God which he worships. He even has his own Raven which he uses like a Cellphone to communicate with said God.

Swain is a mid or top lane anti-bruiser with a decent amount of lane sustain with his passive and Ult, as well as a really good amount of CC and harass. He excels in over-extended duels, which is why I play him off-tank.

A lot of people will tell you that Swain is made for mid, but his kit really goes well against top lane fighters and bruisers which are melee due to the fact that you have the ability to kite them really well with your W+E+Q combo (or even just E+Q).

Also, people will tell you to get more AP, but swain can easily be caught out during ganks if you miss your W, which has a good chance of happening. Therefore, you'll need some form of sustain to get yourself past laning phase - reason why im giving you an off-tank build.

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Pros / Cons

-Bird Power > Everyone else's Power.
-Godly sustain with your Ult.
-Harassing your enemy laner will be relatively easy.
-Good sustained damage.
-Good follow-up on ganks with his kit.
-Not often picked in normal or ranked games. Chances are that the enemy doesn't know how he's played and therefore doesn't know how to counter him.
-F*cking Badass Lore

-Relatively Weak laning phase (somehow item reliant)
-Last hitting will be a ***** under tower.
-Mana-hungry especially with Ult on.
-Can be focused down in the early-mid levels of the game.

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Summoner Spells

This is one of the spells you want to get on Swain. As mentioned before, Swain has a relatively weak start, and you may find yourself recalling to get some health/mana pots or to build Catalyst so that you don't run out of mana too often. In either case, you'd want the ability to get back to your lane relatively quickly, and this will help a lot.

This will also give you good global pressure. Like I said, good follow-up on ganks with his kit, and this goes for when you're the one ganking as well. See if bot lane's enemy is overextending or if your team is pushed back to tower. If they had river or a forward bush warded, tp in and snare the enemy adc to get your team an early kill.

This is a very commonly taken spell on any champion. This will allow you to catch up to the enemy to snare and kill them, or it can give you an escape mechanism for when you're being ganked and your abilities are on cooldown. As Swain lacks mobility and a decent gap closer, this is a spell you'd want.

Other spells worth considering

This will help you get an early kill. However, I pick teleport over this because, as I've stated before, you may find yourself recalling early, and ignite may be used less because of this. If your laner is someone you can bully very easily like Nasus, feel free to take this to add some damage to your set.

Another defensive spell to your lane. I don't really get this spell on Swain unless the enemy has ignite and can kill me early on. Shields will nullify the damage of ignite since it isn't a heal.

This can be used in order to land your snares easier while also reducing the enemy's damage output. Get this on heavy early-game stompers like Riven or Renekton.

Ghost lets you cover more ground that flash does, but slower. Its on a shorter cooldown than flash, as well. You may decide to get this to chase down more slippery top laners (Top Vayne, Gangplank, etc.)

Spells I really don't get

I guess you can get this for when the enemy jungler is an agressive one (like Shaco, Fiddlesticks or Sejuani), but there are better summoner spells than this one, really.

If you find yourself getting low on mana often enough to even need this spell, then you aren't doing a good enough job as Swain. Get a better summoner spell than this.

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Skill Set

Passive: Carrion Renewal
-Regenerates mana based on Swain's level upon killing a unit. Increased amount of mana regenerated on Champion kills/assists. Helps Swain in lasting in lane without always running out of mana. This only works when you get the kill, however, so make sure you brush up on last hitting.

-Damage over Time (DoT) skill that also slows the enemy for the duration. Swain pulls out a Raven from his pants and lets it piss on an enemy with its purple energy. While using it to ensure a kill/escape a gank is a good, try using it in combination with your E for that extra damage and to maximize you mana consumption. Max Second.

-Delayed Area of Effect (AoE) damage that snares anyone caught in the cast area after some time for 2 seconds. Swain calls on the Bird-Man God to summon a flock of Ravens that pin down enemies caught within for Anus Inspection Day. Use can be offensive and defensive: Use offensively by cutting off an escape to ensure a kill or follow-up on a gank. Can also be used to follow-up on initiates during teamfights. Use defensively by ensuring your own/ally's escape. Remember that this is a skill shot so try not to miss. Max Last since you usually only need it for its utility.

-Mini DFG (RIP) active. This is what gives Swain the ability to melt tanks who build MR. You send a flying mass of green goo at your opponents that melts their stuff so you can do more damage (its probably puke or gastric acid, if you ask me). It amplifies ALL forms of damage coming from swain on the targeted unit, increasing up to 20% bonus damage at rank 5. This is why MR is nearly useless against Swain, as itemizing against AP is already hard by itself. Max First.

(R)Ravenous Flock
-This is what enables Swain to take punishment from several enemies at once without dying. Swain makes a deal with Satan to become the Bird-Man God himself. His new-found powers as the Bird-Man God lets him damage up to 3 nearby enemies which heals Swain for 75% of the damage dealt to champions and 25% for minions and monsters. Godly sustain, but mana consumption increases the longer it is toggled on, so turn it off when you don't need to heal yourself/damage someone or if you're getting low on mana. This is also your main source of Wave-Clearing post-6, so if you have a high amount of mana left/have blue buff and you want to clear a wave, don't be afraid to activate this as its cooldown is low (8secs). No form of Crowd-Control or invisibility will stop the damage and healing from this ability, enemy casted or friendly casted (not even Swain activating his Zhonya's). Use this to your advantage during skirmishes and teamfights (inb4 random invisible Kha'Zix/Teemo dying out of nowhere from Swain Ult).

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Item Explanation

Rod of Ages
This is a core item on Swain as it will give you a big chunk of Health, Mana and AP - things that Swain badly needs. It's passive will also help you gain back Mana and Health consumed from laning with your enemy. Buy first.

Sorc Boots
Default boots for any AP based champion. Gives you movement speed which remedies Swain's lack of good mobility and Magic Penetration which will boost the damage of your already amplified combos from your E.

Zhonya's Hourglass
This gives you a huge +120 AP as well as a decent +50 armor. It's active is just godly on any champion (and I mean ANY CHAMPION). This will help you get through a lot of the earlier bursts of damage and survive a big chunk of damage at the latter stages of the game. Activating your Zhonya's won't stop the Healing and Damage from your Ravenous Flock, just like Fiddlestick's Crowstorm. A great item on Mages and AP tanks, a broken item on Swain. Buy after RoA and Boots.

Frozen Heart
This will give you +100 armor which will really help against a lot of AD, +400 mana which, I'll say it again, something that Swain needs. It gives you +20% CDR which is always a welcome stat on any caster, and an aura which slows nearby enemies' attack speed by 15%. Building this and RoA will pretty much solve most of your mana problems for the rest of the game while also giving you a great deal of tankiness to survive clashes.

Rylai's Crystal Scepter
Gives you a good +400 health, a great +100 AP, and its passive is really great on Swain. This item will amplify the slow from your Q as well as allow you to chase enemies with your Ult on. Good chasing ability and for an AP Off-tank, and that's something you'd want.

Abyssal Scepter
Ahh. One of the best items you can get on Swain. This gives you +70 AP and +50 MR. It also gives you an aura wherein nearby enemies have their own MR reduced by 20. This works well with Rylai's and will make your Ult do even more damage. An important buy for any aspiring AP Tank Swain.

Other Good items on the Bird-Man:

Liandry's Torment
Health, AP, Magic penetration, and that killer passive wherein casting spells on an enemy burns them for 6% of their total health for 3 seconds. They take additional damage when they have impaired movement, which is good since your Skill Set already has 2 skills that impair movement. I would get this if the enemy had a lot of tank, but since the main role im introducing here is AP Tank, I would get Rylai's instead because you aren't supposed to be the main source of damage. Feel free to take this item if you feel like it, however. It was a great item on Swain before and its still a great item now.

Mercury Treads
Since Swain has low mobility, he may find himself being CC'd by the enemy team. And if your main role is more of a Tank Swain than the regular Damage'N'Tank Swain, this is a good buy. Tenacity will help you catch up to enemies for you to be able to snare or ult them.

Spirit Visage
Health and MR. Good and Great. But it also increases Spell Vamp and other self-healing effects by 20%, meaning your Ult's Healing will be amplified, allowing you to stay longer inside the enemy team during clashes and teamfights. Good buy on Tankier Swain.


Gives you some tank with the +100 armor. But Frozen heart is preferred in this case. Only get this if the enemy team has a lot of Crit-building auto-attackers (Tryndamere, Fiora, Tristana, etc.)

Rabadon's Deathcap
+120 AP. A Really good item on Swain, but only get it when you're: A) Really Fed and are carrying the team, B) when the game looks like it can be won easily (I think they'll ff@20), or C) The team needs the Damage more than it needs the Tank. Keep in mind that this build is for AP Tank Swain and as such, C will probably not happen often.

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Laning Phase
CSing: As most AP champions' problem, work on last hitting minions. It gets hard to last hit under tower because of the lack of AD. Don't be afraid to sometimes use your skills to ensure a minion kill, as your passive will regenerate mana for every unit you kill. Just make sure you don't rely too much on your skills for last hitting as the mana regenerated will not be enough to sustain indiscriminate skill-spamming.

Harassing the enemy: More often than not, as a top laner, your enemy will be a melee champion. Whenever he gets close to try and CS, hit him with your E+Q combo to make him think twice and feel bad about every CS he gets. Remember that your E amplifies all damage Swain does while Q damages and slows the enemy for 3 secs. Use the E+Q combo when he gets too close for comfort. Try to be aware of the map and decide whether you need to play defensively or offensively with your W. If the enemy jungler is an aggressive one and you're sure that you will get ganked early on or mid lane is missing, remember to save your W to ensure an escape for you. Otherwise, you can choose to amplify your E+Q combo by adding your W into the mix to allow your Q to deal its max damage. Once the enemy is below 30% and you have more health than he does and have a good enough amount of mana, wait for your skills to come back from cooldown all-in him and get an early kill.

Try and ask your jungler if you can have blue, as it will allow you to spam your ult when you get it.

If your enemy is also ranged: This lane will be a bit trickier. Ranged champions don't need to get close to you to do damage, meaning they can get out of your E+Q combo quicker since they're probably not in close range which is where this combo shines. Try to land your W first before using your E+Q combo to ensure that you put on the maximum damage output on him.

Duels: As an AP Sustain Tank, you excel at extended duels due to your ult giving you massive amounts of health sustain. Make sure that the enemy doesn't get close enough to do too much damage, and you'll be able to kill them relatively easily, if not quickly.

Roaming: After taking the enemy outer tower, start roaming around and looking for opportunities to catch enemies out in the open. Your skill set is really good for ganking and ensuring kills for your team when you roam. Remember, however, that you do not have good mobility, so if you miss your W, don't chase targets you know you won't be catching up to anytime soon.

Teamfights: You probably have enough items to last a while in a teamfight after getting your two core items (RoA and Zhonya's). While you're an AP tank, you do not necessarily have the tankiness to sit in the middle of the ENTIRE enemy team, and you probably never will unless you went for the "Moar Tank" build. This, however, does not mean that you won't survive a teamfight by staying in the middle of it. It's all a matter of when you go in a teamfight. Never go in first in a teamfight, unless you're the only initiator available. Wait for your main initiator to go in first and follow up with your W to keep them in place, turn on your ult, and E+Q the enemy squishy.

Taking objectives: This is probably a good time to take towers and inhibitors. Remember to let your ADC or the AD Off-tank in your team (if you have one) do most of the damage to structures while you focus more on wave clearing with your Ult. See if you can take baron at this point, but get the ADC and/or jungler to help out.

Teamfights: This will go slightly different from mid-game teamfights as the enemy will probably have the items to kill tanks at this point. Again, never go in first in a teamfight, unless you're the only initiator. Follow-up after your main initiator goes in, turn on your ult and E+Q squshies.

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Aatrox: Has good sustain but will mostly work really well at the later stages of the game, which is the same with you. He won't have the opportunity to wreak havoc in lane with you and will probably push your wave under tower. Dark Flight will be annoying at best when in lane but can be dangerous in a gank. Have river warded and you'll be okay.

Alistar: This CC monstrosity has been wrecking top laners left and right after the nerfs on his ability to jungle. This is, however, only mostly true for Melee champions - something which you aren't. While Alistar can pretty much knock you up and/or displace you really hard, well.....that's about it. Without his jungler to gank for him, he's pretty much a mana-hungry piece of beef steak which Ravens love to eat. Hitting his level 6 won't really do much for him aside from increasing the chances of surviving your complete combo by a little. Remember to buy a stealth ward for river since ganks on Alistar lanes are terrifying.

Akali: This ninja has been occasionally seen at top, and if you play enough games, you may find yourself in the same situation. Fortunately for you, she also scales into late game like you. You outscale her in every phase of the game except really late game, where she can quickly 100-0 anyone and everyone, including tanks. Abuse her weak early game and outscale her in the later stages. If she goes invisible, turn on your Ult since invisibility won't stop the damage from Ravenous Flock.

Dr. Mundo: This Madman of Zaun can only outsustain you post-6, so make sure you harass the f*ck out of this purple laboratory reject. Dodge his cleavers and let him pay with his own health for that. Never let him get an early kill on you, as he will then outscale you and outsustain you as he hits his 6 before you do. Don't let it get to the point that just turning on his Ult is enough for him to just face tank all your damage like it was just a tickle. But finish him off early and you'll have a relatively easy lane. His perma-slow cleaver is still a b*tch tho, so make sure you dodge those skillshots, especially when his jungler comes to gank you.

Garen: Watch out for his Q and you'll be fine. The trick is to get your Q on him as soon as you hear the word "Demacia!" or some other similar and corny battle cry commonly uttered by this stupid meathead, even if you don't use your E first. After that, you'll be able to outsustain him midgame.

Irelia: Same with every single melee champ out there without a really good gap closing skill. Out-harass her with your E+Q combo and she won't even get to use her true damage on you.

Malphite: The best he can do is throw shards at you, but that won't get him anywhere. He also need to get near you to do damage. E+Q to win.

Mordekaiser: Make him cry. Not only does he not have an escape mechanism, but he also needs to get near you to damage you, and you know that isn't happening anytime soon.

Nasus: You have everything in your skill set that Nasus hates: CS Denying, Harass, slow, snare, and Godly Sustain with your Ult. Bully him from his undeserved CS as Nasus is useless without CS for his Q stacks.

Volibear: Same with Nasus. Deny him from getting CS. This is also true for all top laners which are melee and do not have a very good gap closer(Built-in Flash/Dash[Good] vs Built-in Ghost/Speed Boost[Bad]). Once you burn his passive, get him below 30% health again and all-in him with your skills up.


Darius: Hooks are terrifying, his Q can hit you at a range, and he can slow you. Luckily for you, he's slow as heck. Try baiting out his hook as it will have a high cooldown (more than 20 at earlier ranks) unless he ranks it first, which will rarely happen. He will probably lose mana faster than you, too. Reach 6, sustain his damage and out-harass him before he gets enough stacks of hemorrhage for his Ult.

Fiora: She can be the bane of Swain's life, but only if she out-snowballs him in lane. She has a double dash which can pretty much nullify your Q. Reach level 6 before her as her Ult can evade yours. Build armor early on and win.

Gangplank: He can eat oranges for your snare, which pretty much ruins your combo. He can't, however, outsustain you in lane. He's a lot more mana hungry than you assuming he tries to harass you with constant Q's. Watch out for his ultimate if he uses it on you.

Pantheon: Has a ranged harass on a relatively short cooldown. If he stuns you, he can still get his full combo off before you manage to snare him. Luckily for you, his ult is damn near useless in a 1v1 fight, so reach level 6 first so you can sustain his constant spear shots.

Vladimir (Putin): This mofo is an AP Sustain Tank like you. Despite how people say he's weak against Swain, it all really depends on who's using who. He can out-harass and out-sustain you pre-6. Try to make it to level 6 without dying to him and you'll be able to out-sustain HIM with your ult on. Just keep an eye on your mana pool.

Kennen: Teemo v2.0. He can harass you with ninja stars and even stun you if he gets enough stacks on you. He's also ranged like you so he doesn't need to get too near to damage you. Dodge his shurikens by staying behind minions and try to at least hit him with your E when he gets close. When he goes lightning-ball mode, E+Q or even snare him so that he doesn't get a stack on you. Use your ult when he uses his, as stuns will not interrupt Ravenous Flock's Damage.

Lissandra: The Ice-B*tch has been seen often at top lane in recent games. Skill match-up to be honest. Return her harass with your own and try not to get caught in her stasis-ult. Try to get her to run out of mana before you do, as you have the means to get back mana early on while she doesn't.


Cho'Gath: He can take most of your punishment and regenerate it with his passive, since his regenerates BOTH Health and Mana upon killing a unit, while you only regenerate mana when you kill a unit. He can last hit better than you, and his E is pretty much free harass if you get too close. His Q+W combo will be hard to counter since you won't get a chance to return the damage, being a caster and all. True damage on his Ult will probably kill you at low health without letting you regenerate the damage dealth with your own Ult. Watch for when he stomps his feet to know when he casts rupture, as he can only follow up after hitting a lucky rupture, otherwise he just wasted 90 mana on a single skill. Dodge his skill shots and pray that he runs out of mana from all of that.

Tryndamere: This high risk-high reward mofo can lose to you pre-6. But he has a good gap closer and a slow which can cancel out your Q, so watch out. Post-6 and he just wrecks you in lane. He can outlast your onslaught of skills with his Ult and he can damage you faster than you can heal it all back with your own Ult. This guy scales better into late game than you do, so this will be a hard game for you. Getting a kill or two on him earlier with ganks from your jungler will just help you outlast most of his damage at best, so try not to be the focus of this guy during teamfights and rush Zhonya's after RoA to outlast his Ult.

Galio: General counter for any AP top laner or mid laner. The more MR he builds, the more he hurts you, in both ways: He takes less damage from your skills while dealing more damage with his skills. When you lane against a Galio, cry. Try asking your mid laner to swap lanes.

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AP Sustain Swain is pretty viable, even in ranked. With the amount of games he's not played in, few people know how to play against him, which works in your favor. Facestomp the enemy team and be on your way on the road to Plat/Diamond.