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Swain Build Guide by Ryoji

Top THE Guide to Swain — War with the "Warlock" [14.3]

Top THE Guide to Swain — War with the "Warlock" [14.3]

Updated on February 18, 2024
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League of Legends Build Guide Author Ryoji Build Guide By Ryoji 8 3 23,917 Views 0 Comments
8 3 23,917 Views 0 Comments League of Legends Build Guide Author Ryoji Swain Build Guide By Ryoji Updated on February 18, 2024
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Runes: Precision — Battlemage

1 2 3 4 5
Presence of Mind
Legend: Tenacity
Last Stand

Manaflow Band

+10% Attack Speed
+9 Adaptive (5.4 AD or 9 AP)
+10-180 Bonus Health


1 2 3
Mid & Anti-heal
LoL Summoner Spell: Flash


LoL Summoner Spell: Ignite


Threats & Synergies

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Champion Build Guide

THE Guide to Swain — War with the "Warlock" [14.3]

By Ryoji
[INFO] Introducing Swain
Swain, the Noxian Grand General
Battlemage, Teamfighter, Strategist, Drain-tank
Swain is a champion that has flexibility in his role. From the toplane, midlane, bottom lane and even support, there's always an opportunity to play the master strategist. A teamfight god, Swain excells in longer fights, preferably in packs, and is most comfortable controlling the fight as opposed to really starting it. With his abilities he has almost global presence, average to slightly above average bursts, decent catching potential, and a passive that lets him sustain as well as grow tankier the longer the game goes. All of Swain's abilities can hit, and should hit, multiple targets whenever possible.

The Noxian Grand General when reworked in 8.3 back in February 2018, was exuding with lore that had implications for all the world's lore from them on. Unfortunately finding himself in flux, Swain was mid-scope updated in April of 2022 to his best iteration yet. A drain-tank battlemage that wasn't going to burst your entire team down from the get-go, but would control and work his way up. I fell in love with Swain long before even his overhaul, and even more so after his mid-scope that I also provided feedback for.

I've played Swain for years and count him among my best champions, and previous season-wide winrates with over 250 games and a 68% winrate (that I can no longer retrieve due to region changes, of course. "Trust me bro") lead me to believe I have a decent grasp over the champion, to where I even feel comfortable and succesfully play whacky builds for fun in competitive games because I know it'll work.

Swain has some shortcomings. He's not terribly mobile, and doesn't have all the flashy 3 hit passives, executes, blinks and zips, flying, etc. skills people do these days. Additionally, Riot doesn't seem to agree with itself on Swain's lore and status. In videos about Swain and Noxus they'll say "Noxus isn't all bad guys" with videos, and then have new champs call Swain and Darius colonizers. It's kind of frustrating.

Today, I hope to impart some of my knowledge of the Noxian Grand General onto you. Caw caw, caw caw caw.
[INFO] Understanding & Goals
To begin understanding how to best play Swain, I think it's best to first talk about what Swain's goals are as a laner. What do I mean? Well, if you play Fizz or Ahri, your objective is to snowball your lane and then roam. If you're Twisted Fate or Aurelion Sol, your objective is to roam first with abilities and then snowball from there. If you're Malzahar or Anivia, it's to farm as much as possible, catch your opponent and push objectives as roaming is a bit slower. So what then is Swain's goal?

It switches over the course of a game. But overall? Teamfight domination.

Below is a long-winded explanation I do recommend you read, but if you're looking for a quick skim, skip to the TL:DR.
Spoiler: Click to view

TL:DR - Our power budget dictates our R is our key ability, we have infinite HP stacking with sustain built in on these two bits, little bits of damage with our Q and W, and catching with our E.

The way we make sure to get the most out of our power is looking at items, runes, summoners, etcetera, which help us boost our goals!
[INFO] Base Stat & Growth
Let’s talk about the facts first: Stats and skills.

We need to tear a bandaid off. Swain’s HP and growth sucks. He’s among the lowest or middeling champions in regards to stats and growth. But the stats that matter to us are HP, AP and MS. Why? If you’re dying, you’re not dealing damage. If you’re not dealing damage, you’re dying. If you’re not catching up, or you’re too slow, you’re not fast enough. And maybe dying. This is actually why I recommend taking HP scaling runes in most scenarios. Swain gains 99 HP per level. Adding 20 hp with runes per level? This puts us into the shared top 10 HP per level at 119 HP per level. I don’t count Kled, he’s cheating. 42nd lowest HP at 595 means we’d get 2618 HP. 13th highest HP at 18! Kled doesn’t count. Cheating. And what’s more? This only goes up naturally. Amazing.

AP mana, MR… yeah, we’re pretty middle ground on everything. We’re in the 2nd lowest rank for movement, and that’s really important for us! Uphill battles across the board. So what’s our goals with stats?

Survive, Stick & Slurp (with our ultimate).
[INFO] Skills
Next we’ll talk about skills. Instead of simply copy and pasting the skill description, you can read them on hover and I’ll give you my thoughts.

P: Ravenous Flock is a big part of why I love Swain. If you see my schpiel on HP, you’ll notice I think Swain’s HP has a lot of potential. This elevates it beyond good. Hit skills, hover kills. Now a hard question to answer, what’s a good amount of stacks at X time in the game? Well… there is no right answer. It’s not like you’re Nasus and get to ignore the enemy and focus on minions. It’s the reverse. Not catching enemies means you aren’t growing. Enemy skill, knowledge and reactivity plays an immense role. Your own, even more so. The only real pointer I can give you is that you should try to toss a Visions of Empire around a bit. More on that later. Oh right, and try to grab souls in combat. Max HP % heals are insane especially if you have a lot of HP. Also if I ever call them birds, I’m sorry. I prefer the idea that I’m bird collecting.

Q - Death’s Hand is a great burst tool, and I often call it a shotgun. No, not a Peacekeeper, more like a Pump-Action. It’s got a really short cooldown, especially later on. It can hit multiple enemies, apply effects, or do loads of damage on a single target if you’re in their face. In lane, it’s a satisfying tool for farming and pushing. Did you know this isn’t a projectile? Yasuo mains in mid forget this quite often. Use it through a windwall. Max this first, always, but grab it 3rd.

W - Visions of Empire is either my favourite or really close 2nd favourite skill on Swain. It’s an amazing long range utility tool. I personally refer to it as my Assist grabber. I max this second, because while it’s damage is negligible, its use is immeasurable. I differentiate between a roam and a gank, and I’ll talk about this more later, but this is THE roam ability. Enemies on Drake/Baron? Fight in the river? Fight in another lane? 1HP enemy recalling on a ward? Recalling on a ward in general? I drop Visions of Empire in so many situations. It does a little bit of damage, but more importantly slows, grabs a Ravenous Flock stack for all enemies hit, and another if you get the assist on anything, which also gives you gold. And often I didn’t even have to leave lane all that far. Not every ability needs to feel like a nuke to be satisfying, and this is a great example. Use this just before a Nevermove yank ahead of where they land and you’re almost guaranteed a hit. Just delay the pull slightly.

E - Nevermove is your key ability. Sure, yes, your ultimate is important. But this ability ties your entire kit together. And it’s cooldown is reduced by 2-ish (Haste dependant) seconds while your ultimate is up. This allows you to hit Death’s Hand. Hitting this is your engage to use Demonic Ascension. If you use it properly, it guarantees a Vision of Empire hit. It makes you a catcher support. It gives you Ravenous Flock and it lets you stick to enemies. The only thing it doesn’t do is scale. Its ratios are low, its cooldown is static except in ultimate form, and the mana cost is static too. Once you pick this up, its the last ability you level. Side note, the stun reveals enemies. And if you want to hit Vision of Empire perfectly with this, practice the timing of the pull in training tool.

R - Demonic Ascenscion and Demonflare are the moves you'll associate with Swain first. It's what makes him a battlemage and draintank. It's what makes you fear him in teamfights. The unenlightened will call for "nerfs, Swain doesnt die, so broken, such a low cooldown", etcetera. Let them yap. The damage isn't insane. In fact, it's AP ratios are kind of garbage per tick. Swain's not someone you would build high AP on anyway. When you count it across 5 people, it's pretty alright. But the Heal per tick is different. You see, the heal per tick solely affects you. You see, hitting another target means you're just doing an alright tick of damage per second on another target. But heal per tick solely affects you. That explanation might seem complicated so let's simplify it. With no AP at rank 1 and 1 target, you heal 15 HP per tick, up to 40 per tick at rank 3. Not bad. But make it 5 targets, and it's 75 HP per tick, up to 200 HP per tick. This obviously changes with items, the amount drained, damage dealt, etcetera. But that amount of healing per tick is incredible and makes you a raidboss. Antiheal is the only thing that really stops you, and with all your low cooldowns, Demonflare being a big AoE damage dealer and slow, it's simply an incredibly good ult that goes up in value the longer you can stay in it and draining you can do. Ironically, this ability is what makes Sylas a permaban when I play Swain. His mobility, burst, and already built in sustain alongside your draining and burst with CC from the blast... he's always gonna beat you.
[RUNES] Precision
The battlemage option, and the best option overall in this build for our goals.
This puts you on a warpath that doesn’t help you much in early-midgame, but excels lategame.
  • Conqueror: The obvious answer. It’s not even just because it does everything so tight for us. It’s also because every other option doesn’t benefit us that greatly. Fleet Footwork is simply not better. Conqueror gives you increased damage, provides you with healing, and is stacked at a decent pace with our short cooldowns. It’s major pitfall is that damage over time only gives us a single stack every 5 seconds so our ultimate doesn’t immediately proc it.
  • Presence of Mind: Swain’s biggest pitfall in lane, as either the carry or support, is mana cost and mana recovery. This helps immensely as even a single auto attack can proc the increased recovery. On takedowns, you get a 15% mana restoration which is never a bad thing. ALTERNATIVELY, if you were to take Manaflow Band and Tear of the Goddess, you may opt for Triumph instead. In the midst of a teamfight as an off-tank, getting max HP + missing HP back is gamechanging. Unfortunately I prefer Presence.
  • Legend: Tenacity: If Bloodline gave Omnivamp, we’d be eyeing that. But in the middle of fights, reducing crowd control effects is amazing. Alacrity sucks for us and Bloodline is auto attack based healing. CC reduction it is.
  • Last Stand: Getting increased damage just cus you’re fighting is kind of great for the guy who wants to be in the middle of a fight taking damage. Hard to argue. ALTERNATIVELY, Coup de Grace is a good option if you’re running Domination primary. But you’ll get more mileage out of Last Stand.
  • SECONDARY: Presence of Mind & Legend: Tenacity: If selecting Precision as your secondary tree, these provide things you might not really build or get otherwise out of other trees in such value. Mana sustain is crucial, and being able to move is more beneficial than doing damage.

  • ROW 1 - for solo lane - for Conqueror - for support
  • ROW 2 - for burst - for mobility - for survivability (see stats section)
  • ROW 3 - flat for early - for CC/Ashe - for late game (see stats section)
[RUNES] Domination
The Warlock option, for your burst. These runes give you some much needed killing edge Pre6 and can make 1v1s a breeze,
while also providing some neat stats you might not immediately assume are THAT beneficial.
  • Electrocute & Dark Harvest: Two? Yes, options. Firstly, the most straightforward. Electrocute makes you a threat in the early game, especially if you opt for Ignite as a summoner spell. However, you don’t scale too well with it considering you don’t go pure Ability Power like a Veigar or Fizz would. So what’s the alternative? Dark Harvest. Not quite as powerful but still a fair threat. The more you stack it though, the more damage it does. And its scaling isn’t immense but something that essentially becomes a form of mini electrocutes late game that resets on takedown is a solid option. We generally choose this tree to snowball early though as there’s better late game options. 100% Electrocute as a support though.
  • Cheap Shot: Resets every 4 seconds, dealing bonus true damage. For a champion with 2 slows in Demonflare, Vision of Empire (and Rylais if you build it) and an immobilize, this is pretty nifty. It also helps with your Electrocute burst.
  • Eyeball Collection & Zombie Ward: 30 AP is worth 600 gold. Basically a stronger amplifying tome. Just depends now how you want to get it. Want to earn it while you snowball a little more? Or do you prefer 2 minutes of a free ward when it expires? It’s more annoying to get stacks this way, but I can definitely feel the value when I’m supporting. That time can make a huge difference even if they’re easy to kill. Still, burst tree, eyeball wins in lane and zombie wins as support.
  • Ultimate Hunter: 31 ability haste is about 23% reduced cooldown. Cute, right? Except Swain lives and dies by his ultimate. After 6, you’re always waiting for it to come up. Your 100/80/60 seconds waiting become 77/62/46. This is strong enough that you actually are closer to max level cooldown at the halfway mark, something that’s designed to be balanced at that point. Every 46 seconds, not even accounting for other cooldown reduction options? That’s basically every fight. Too good. Especially if you go Malignance, in which case it’s 69(!!!)/55/41. That early difference is huge.

  • ROW 1 - for solo lane - for Conqueror - for support
  • ROW 2 - for burst - for mobility - for survivability (see stats section)
  • ROW 3 - flat for early - for CC/Ashe - for late game (see stats section)
[RUNES] Celerity
The Mage that kills by a thousand papercuts. These are your safe options that don’t require too much risk
to utilize and provide you with some very valuable options. It’s not the strongest tree in my eyes. But it provides so much safety when Swain needs it early it’s hard to debate.
  • Summon Aery: It’s a cute little critter that scratches enemies no matter what you hit with. It’s nice additional damage that triggers on literally any form of damage you do. Arcane Comet is mathematically maybe the better option for damage. It’s just that we usually open with Nevermove and… Nevermove makes the comet miss if we pull too quick. Oops. Phase Rush isn’t bad, but there’s other options now that are not just viable choices, but downright better if it means sacrificing the safety that Aery provides.
  • Manaflow Band: You need this. Mana is not Swain’s domain. You could go this, Presence, Tear and still find yourself wondering where it all went. Maybe it’s exaggeration but damned if it wasn’t close to reality. Other options aren’t bad. But the value of this is astronomically better.
  • Transcendence: Celerity is cool for moving but being able to catch is just a little better. And what makes us catch? Abilities. And thus we choose the reducing options. Takedowns even lower cooldowns in mid to late. That’s so useful.
  • Scorch: BUT YOU SAID LATEGAME- yes, I did. Gathering Storm is better for those who need more AP to go with their pure AP. The AP we get is usually an additional bonus to what an item can provide. Additionally. Scorch is kind of a necessary crutch early on if our only extra poking power is Aery. If you wanna risk it for the biscuit, go for Gathering Storm.
  • SECONDARY: Manaflow Band & Transcendence: Mana, cooldown reduction, what’s not to love. If you’re going Domination primary, Scorch with Cheap Shot and Electrocute is kind of disgusting. Take that along with Manaflow.

  • ROW 1 - for solo lane - for Conqueror - for support
  • ROW 2 - for burst - for mobility - for survivability (see stats section)
  • ROW 3 - flat for early - for CC/Ashe - for late game (see stats section)
[RUNES] Resolve
The Life of the Party. Do I actually go this? Yes! Unironically yes.
You see, if I’m against a melee lane like Yone or Yasuo, I generally feel really safe. But I can’t kill them. So instead I’ll continually proc…
  • Grasp of the Undying: Look, this is underrated on Swain. Your passive makes you tankier and sustains you as a result of damage. GUESS WHAT? Grasp has the exact same effect and means your autos are slightly more threatening. I won’t lie. This is my personal sleeper favourite to play. Do not sleep on this if you’re against a non threatening melee.
  • Demolish: Truthfully the other ones just kinda suck in comparison. Plus, Font of Life is only useful in laning phase if someone can benefit from it, meaning you’re supporting, and the Domination/Sorcery tree offers stronger options there. The ONLY exception is having a Nilah ADC.
  • Bone Plating: Unless you’re going resistances tank, Conditioning isn’t as valuable. Second Wind is okay against poke but you’d be better off negating the poke damage with Bone Plating instead.
  • Overgrowth & Revitalize: More max HP by being in lane. Sort of the theme of this tree. Revitalize boosts your incoming healing below 40%. Considering you’re comfortable there, staying alive is pretty cool.
  • SECONDARY: Revitalize & Bone Plating: Overgrowth is good if you have Grasp to go with it but aside from that? Revitalize and Bone Plating boost your survivability. I personally don’t prefer Resolve secondary, but it does tend to stay high up in win percentages according to Lolalytics.

  • ROW 1 - for solo lane - for Conqueror - for support
  • ROW 2 - for burst - for mobility - for survivability (see stats section)
  • ROW 3 - flat for early - for CC/Ashe - for late game (see stats section)
[RUNES] Inspiration..?
The Strategist. Yes, I do play this on occasion. Even in ranked. But this is the “F*** it, last game of the night, we ball” option. It’s not terrible but provides the least direct value to our goals. Rather, this tree boosts our income and lets us reach goals faster instead of boosting our usefulness with our goals. It’s hard to argue against winning the race faster, but consider if you’d like to win it in a simple car or a war tank. Just ‘cus it’s faster, doesn’t make it better. Use caution or play normals.
  • First Strike: If you’re against anything that out ranges you, this has no value. But against melees that are not Fizz, Kassadin or Ekko, this is a very neat little option. It boosts your income and lets you do a sprinkle of extra true damage. The most fun of this keystone is lategame when you’ve got a Liandrys, and you see someone recalling. Vision of Empire them for 50 gold, max HP, and being annoying. I love being annoying.
  • Magical Footwear: Magical Footwear is for free boots with a bit more speed. I love them, but it always feels so far away. Even with boots we're quite slow, so this adds an extra 10 movement speed that can really make a difference.
  • Biscuit Delivery: Actually, there is no bad option. But you lack mana sustain and free sustain with max mana is quite a nice freebie. Dematerializer is meh. You burst waves strongly anyway. But not bad. Future’s Market… well, see my First Strike car analogy again. RIP TotalBiscuit. Forever a big fan.
  • SECONDARY: Magical Footwear & Biscuit Delivery: Though I assume you have mana sustain elsewhere if you go this option. Right? … Right?.. Please go to a different secondary tree.

  • ROW 1 - for solo lane - for Conqueror - for support
  • ROW 2 - for burst - for mobility - for survivability (see stats section)
  • ROW 3 - flat for early - for CC/Ashe - for late game (see stats section)
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