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Swain Build Guide by IFTrixie

The Definitive Swain Guide by Trixie

The Definitive Swain Guide by Trixie

Updated on July 28, 2012
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League of Legends Build Guide Author IFTrixie Build Guide By IFTrixie 16 2 43,805 Views 32 Comments
16 2 43,805 Views 32 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author IFTrixie Swain Build Guide By IFTrixie Updated on July 28, 2012
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So one way or another, you've found yourself picking Swain. A wise choice, as the general of the noxian army and a ranking member on high command, Swain is adept at controlling the battlefield and feels right at home on Summoners Rift. This guide is meant to provide useful information to any summoner wishing to try their hand at this devastatingly powerful AP carry type champion.

Swain is a tanky AP carry. He's not a tank, but his high amounts of health and life steal permit him to survive situations traditional AP carries such as Veigar or LeBlanc would be killed in.
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Pros / Cons


-Very consistent-
-Almost endless sustain-
-Extremely durable-
-Works well as solo top and mid-


-Extremely vulnerable to ignite; this will kill you many times in fights.-
-If you're silenced by someone like Kass or LeBlanc before you can even hit your Ult, you're done for.-
-Snare takes some practice to perfect-
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For blues I run flat AP, but MR/lvl runes are also quite viable. This may change after the upcoming patch, however.

For reds, magic penetration can really be the difference between that level 3 teemo getting away with 1 bar or 0 bars.

For yellows I recommand HP/lvl simply because AP/lvl is rather overdone and swain does not, IMO, have need for such a bonus with this build.

Quintessences should be flat AP. However, MR/lvl or Magic Pen would be something to experiment with as well.
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Standard masteries. 21/0/9 with mana and shrine masteries in utility. I don't die too often with swain so the slight percentage in time spent dead does not benefit me very much compared to 3 mp/5 will. I've seen 21/9/0 before but to me that is terrible because swain should have blue as much as possible, although if someone else on your team is going to be getting blue more often, the bonus health can be a boon.
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this is Swain's passive ability. Every time you kill a minion you will gain back mana. At level 1 it is 10, at 18 it is 27. This is basically your reward for csing well, and it is extremely important for your sustain ability. Try to aim for AT LEAST 100 minions by 20 minutes. It's possible to get that as early as 15 but were not all perfect. I usually reach this at around 17-19 mins personally, but i have gotten it at 15 minutes if the enemy mid is extremely incompetent [many blind pick matches]
This is a potent part of your DPS combo, and the damage can become bad to the bone with your Torment debuff. Basically, a bird that stays in place slows the enemy, but they can easily move out of range. A good tactic is to use it to escape melee champs and on snared people.
Probably the funnest skill you have, next to your Ultimate of course. If you can master the snare, you've mastered Swain. Landing this on around 3 enemies at once will seal their fate. The delay is roughly the same as Brand's AoE, so if you're good at Brand, this will serve you well. The damage also becomes extremely high at late game, when you have it maxed and are rocking a nearly full build.
This could be called the bread'n'butter of swains combos. Torment placed a DoT on the target that also magnifies all damage you deal, including ignite and auto-attacks. A full combo would be Torment Decrepify Nevermove Ravenous Flock Ignite and this will kill almost anyone within seconds.
Easily the funnest ability in the game. You turn into a giant freakin' bird that melts all nearby enemies with large amounts of magic damage per second. You'll be doing around 200+ magic dps to 3 targets at once with a full build, which is 600 DPS, and about 450 HPS (health per second) if those 3 are champions. When engaging enemy champions, try to fight on their minion wave for the bonus healing [which is higher than the minions damage.] It drains a deceptively small amount of mana at first, but if you leave it on for more than 5 seconds you will really start to notice the drain. Use this with Nevermove for csing made fast n easy. It's also your only real way of pushing.
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Summoner Spells

Flash - Easily the best summoner spell in the game. Stuck in a veigar wall? Gotta finish off that LB that dashed away? Enemy jungler and mid got you in a pinch? Flash is there to pick you up. Be careful with it, if you can escape without it, do so. I run this one very champ pretty much because it's just that good.

Ignite - More of a addition to your combo than a finisher. Torment Decrepify Nevermove Ravenous Flock Ignite will kill almost anyone. Use it while torment is up for a massive true damage boost!

Exhaust - Useful if you're solo top or if they have a powerful ranged carry. Swain can be destroyed in moments by ranged carries so an exhaust can mean the difference between life and death.

Clarity - I used this when I was new to swain, and it really helped me when I wasn't very good with last hitting and mana management. I was able to keep my ultimate up longer in team fights, juke people who thought i was out of mana into engaging, and generally stay in lane longer overall. I outgrew it, however.

Teleport - Nice mobility. If the enemy team is heavy on pusher type champions or you think you need the mobility in your lane, grab teleport.

Surge - What? Why would you run surge on swain? Fun, mostly. I sometimes do it in normal games because a giant bird of d00m is very scary in a teamfight and quite fun to be, and when you can look the enemy cho'gath in the eye and say "RIP AND TEAR YOUR GUTS!!!" it's all worth it. Do try to avoid using this in serious games, however.. it's just not that viable
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Finishing your Build

If you followed the cheat sheet, you'll notice you have two empty slots to fill in your inventory. This was intentional. The four items listed there give swain a strong foundation and 2 legs and a cane to stand on, and the last 2 slots should be used to flesh out your build to fit the game. Here's what I recommend:

Enemy team heavy on AP? Is your own team heavy on AP? Grab one of these babies. Some people recommend a banshees veil, but I don't think it's worth sacrificing a slot with an item that has zero AP when something like this is available. In addition to the magic resist, the magic penetration aura compliments a team that is heavy in AP as well.

I get this on swain very often even if the enemy team is low on AD. If you're being focused fast, this will save your life very often. I build this almost every game, but sometimes it's not necessary. It's up to you whether you will need the 2 second invulnerability and armor boost. Oh, and the 100 AP is nothing to scoff at, either.

Every now and then you'll be fighting a team that is so heavy on AD you can't find the enemy spell firing in all of the right clicking. When this happens, a frozen heart is your answer. If the enemy team has 4-5 AD, get it automatically. Just one fed AD is not a good enough reason to resort to this, as Swain is perfectly capable of shutting down ad carries and escaping most melee. But if the enemy team is composed heavily of AD, this will grant you a defensive edge, and allow you to keep your ult up FAR longer, which makes up for the lack of AP. the passive CDR and slow are also very nice for any AP carry.

Ah yes, the void staff. Many times you will find the enemy team stacking up on Magic Resistance items (especially in my case, as I get fed more often than not..) in the vain hope that they will save them from the Swain Train (tm), but with this item, even a Force of Nature is far too little to stop it. I build this very often on Swain, when the enemy carries start getting negatrons in prep for a banshees veil/FoN, this will allow you to keep eating them regardless.

Once in a long while, you may be pressured into building one of these things. If your team is extremely squishy and you have to take on the roll of tank, I do not disapprove of grabbing this for the armor/mr/resurrection passive. Mix this with an Abyssal Sceptor/Hourglass on your other slot, and Swain becomes a tank in his own respect. Still, I've only had to resort to this item a few times and it should be avoided if you have a tank.
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Situational items

These are items that you should disrupt the cookie cutter build with on occasion due to the way a game is going early/mid-way through.

I don't start off with this too often, but if you think you're going to need the HP/sustain/damage against your opponent, get one of these at the start, just don't expect to finish your catalyst as fast. I get this about 1/3 of the time over the sapphire/pot combo.

It's going to happen. You're going to get out-played by someone else in mid, or that LeBlanc is going to constantly double sigil you, and that Kassadin is going to faceroll all over you after reaching level 6. Well, if you're fighting either of these champions, I recommend grabbing one of these bad boys early. Get it after your catalyst/before sorcerers shoes.. or at any time where you think it will be the most beneficial, really, but try to get it before you start building items for your Rylai's.

The same logic as negatrons. Although you will rarely be facing an AD in mid, if you're solo top or the enemy jungler is just a wrecking ball, grabbing one of these is never a bad choice. I also get this if the enemy team is AD heavy and are ganking a lot. This is a wonderful choice because it builds into an hourglass later, so no gold is wasted if it is gotten early on.

Okay hot shot, so you're dominating a match? Got first blood and already sitting on three kills at the 7 minute mark? Don't let the enemy catch up. Grab one of these suckers to help secure yourself into the mid-game. The stacks will keep gathering faster and faster if you play smart and strike decisively. Getting 20 stacks is a monumental accomplishment, and the enemy team is probably boned by that point.

Getting this item is risky. the earlier you get it, the riskier it is. The only time I actually rush this is in a bot game or when I'm fighting Teemo mid.

Not always a bad choice for solo top swain, the sustain and GP5 will really help you in the long run.. However, I rarely build this simply because Swain rolls on top of almost every solo top, especially all melee types.

Whaa? Why is this here? Sometimes you may be forced to get this item earlier than your rabadons, which is fine because you should already have your needlessly large rod. If the enemy team is hellbent on focusing you down first in every fight, it would be beneficial to grab this before rabadons.
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Why no WotA?

Many of you will probably be asking why i don't even consider this item in my build. I'm sorry to say that I just don't think it's a very viable item on Swain. In a team fight, the bonus health onwill add up to better survivability when you're getting bursted on than the passive healing from WotA will possibly make up for. The kills you can secure with the slow from Rylai's will be many, i have many chased people to death with my ult slowing while throwing out my skills. The slow is also undeniably good in teamfights. Additionally, while ignited (which is often the cause of your death because of the anti-healing debuff), the spell vamp is quite insignificant. The only useful thing about it is that it grants your teammates AP.

I have played swain through hundreds of games, at least 2 dozen of those I've built into a Will of the Ancients, and it just doesn't measure up to my playstyle as well as this build. I'm sure it may work better for some, but if you want to follow my playing style, it's not the item for you.
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How to Play...

It's time to discuss playing this wonderful champion. Mastering your Nevermove and knowing when to use it will come with time, so try things like landing the very edge of it on the other mid while they are standing still/casting something.

If you know for sure enemies are in a bush, drop your Nevermove in it then roll in with Ravenous Flock. Use your Nevermove + Ravenous Flock on minion waves for quick and easy CS/passive mana, and just keep refining its use. Aim where your opponent is going to be, not where he is, because it has a delay that is about the same as Brand's AoE.

Hug blue as much as you can. When you're level 6 you should get your blue for maximum sustain. Swain takes blue priority over... most champions, because it's just so powerful and allows him to keep his ult up in 5-8 second bursts with literally no mana loss at all.

Be sure to use Torment before anything else to maximize damage output, unless you or your teammate are in a clutch situation and you need to use a Nevermove on a location out of your Torment/ Decrepify range and you're confident enough with it that it will land. The general battle combo is R, E, Q, W, or E, Q, W, R. Follow these up with Ignite

Early game

Swain is weak before level 3. you should focus on last hitting and harassing. A potent combo for very-early-game harassing is Torment > auto-attack. The auto attack will be magnified by your Torment and the dot will do some damage too.

Swains auto attack animation takes some getting used to, but once you master last hitting on swain, mana becomes trivial.

Try not to go past the middle of the lane or it will be overextending, and swain is vulnerable to ganks, unless you're extremely good with your Decrepify/ Nevermove placement, even then, being overextended is death.

Don't push, just last-hit. This about sums up swain's early game plan.


Now you can start to push. Assuming now you have Sorcerer's Shoes + Rod of Ages you can confidently stride through your lane and take whats yours.

Play carefully as always, especially if you are still only rocking a Boots (meaning you rushed Rod of Ages, a solid tactic), because you can die very easily without the extra speed from Sorcerer's Shoes.

Late Game

So now you Rylai's Crystal Scepter + Sorcerer's Shoes + Rod of Ages, and are on the way to finishing your Rabadon's Deathcap? You should be pushing 3k health now, and you are going to be very tough to kill. Follow your team in fights, try to Nevermove their carry and run through them with your Ravenous Flock up. Don't initiate, make sure your tank is already being attacked before you show yourself, and if you can land that Torment Decrepify Nevermove Ignite combo on the enemy carry, you should be able to win the fight quickly.

Use bushes to break sight as much as possible, and in tandem with your Rylai's Crystal Scepter, you can easily keep up with the fight and prevent the enemy from escaping. Drop your Ravenous Flock periodically because if you keep it on for too long you will go out of mana. In a fight, drop it, run into a bush, and then rejoin the fight when it is ready again, or just roll without your Ravenous Flock and hit your skills while you're waiting for it to be up again..

When your build is done, just keep playing as an off-tank AP carry, focus their squishies down or use your CC to keep enemies off your own carry. Save people who are being chased with your long range snare that will either make them back off or stick them to the ground. When you see a Jax/Xin Zhao coming towards you or see a shaco deceive, it's a safe bet they're going to be on you in moments, so drop the Nevermove on the center of your body. This will snare them immediately as they appear next to you, walk out of melee range and combo them. Easy.
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Picking Swain in Ranked

I don't play ranked too often and its certainly not as impressive as my idol, Zamphira's, 9/2/6 kill/death/assist ratio and 80% win swain record but I think it's decent (Except for my CS. This screenshot was taken a few months ago. I've gotten much better at it since.). Picking Swain for a ranked game is a really good choice because as many people will tell you, 'ELO hell' is a place where your teammates are going to suck every other game and try to bring your ELO down out of spite. AP Carry is easily the best way out of this, especially if you are solo queue by yourself.

The basic concept is, if you can call ap mid on your team, pick swain. If the enemy team appears to have chosen a melee solo top, pick swain. Try to get Kassadin banned because fighting him is extremely difficult on Swain, and it will be harder to carry your team.

Generally speaking, in ranked you should be more careful about your opponent and jungler. Keep your CS above his and harass him when viable. Nevermove is useful for denying CS, because even if he is good at dodging, if you throw it right when he is about to last hit, he will have to make the decision to escape the snare and miss the minion, or eat the snare and take massive harass damage.

Swain at solo top hard counters all melee classes, and you will easily win any encounter with them/zone them to the point they cant farm. Just be sure you don't overextend, and hope you're on the blue side because it makes you gankable from just one opening rather than two.

MOST IMPORTANT!!!: you picked swain to win. If someone on your team is sucking bad (almost every game) try to give them friendly advice. if someone on your team is raging, be calm and nice and offer solutions. You don't have to mean it. In fact, you can say these words through gritted teeth, but if you want to win you have to swallow it and just be the 'master tactician' swain is known for being.
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Fighting your counterpicks

Swain is a force to be reckoned with on all fronts, but even he has counterpicks. Although you have a rivalry with Jarvan IV he is easily defeatable by you. This section will cover fighting some champs that you are not at an advantage in fighting.

Kassadin - This is it. The ultimate anti-carry. He can appear next to you, silence you for 3 years, then disappear in a poof of void energy before the silence even wears off. You need to really keep your distance if you're mid against this guy. Take advantage of his weak early game [your biggest advantage is between level 3-5] to try to intimidate him. There is no question than you have to grab Negatron's Cloak if you even want a chance against a decent one in lane. When he moves towards you post-6 he is probably about to teleport into you. Throw your Ravenous Flock up before he can throw his Null Sphere and try to land a Nevermove. The thing about Kassadin is he can only do damage in short bursts and has to constantly move in and out of engagement. If you snared him and your ult is attacking him while you're silenced, you can at least consider this minor payback for his assault. Catching him off-guard is extremely hard, but if you can try to land Nevermove after he has used Riftwalk he should be boned. However, with a passive that basically says "Frick you, ap carries!" and a bashees veil, this too will be difficult.

Morgana - Not nearly as scary as Kassadin but you should be cautious all the same. Try to bust down her shield before snaring, and while your ult is up, strafe near her with Ravenous Flock rather than auto-attack, in an attempt to dodge her Dark Binding which, if it lands on you, you will be quickly combo'd with Tormented Shadow and Soul Shackles which can seal our heroes fate.

Tristana - Not quite as dangerous in all honesty, but the fact that her Explosive Shot drastically reduces your healing. This build disregards WotA in favour of health so this will not be as destructive to you as it would be for other builds. Wait for her to jump BEFORE you attempt a snare. When you've got your Torment Decrepify Nevermove Ignite combo off, run into a nearby bush to break vision, and she should be dead from that. If you know she will survive it, go all in with Ravenous Flock and hope for a victory.

Rumble - coming soon

Cassiopeia - coming soon

Fiddlesticks - coming soon

Malzahar - coming soon

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Athene's Unholy Grail

Athene's Unholy Grail is a new item from the last time I played, and I really can't say much for it right now. if your mana control is good it shouldnt be necessary, but the whole mana gain on assist and kills seems like it could be an absolute boon in team fights

i shall do some games with it and report back my findings later today
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