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Swain Build Guide by Fas Scriptor

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 Fas Scriptor

The Tyrant of Mid Lane

Fas Scriptor Last updated on March 7, 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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Introduction to Swain

The Master Tactician

Swain beats almost every champion in lane early and mid game, just that you need to switch up the play style a bit to do so.  I myself have had a ton of success with swain, using him to carry myself to diamond in s2 and diamond once more in s3.  With over 600 ranked games on swain season 2, I feel like my guide could help you learn a bit more about how to play him. 

He can snowball and carry a game really hard.  He's also a blast to play and easy to pickup but hard to master due to his reliance on active items, hourglass in particular.

There's also something deeply satisfying about being a giant bird monster and sending your little lesser ravens to eat your foes alive.

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Alternatives on Rune Choices









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Alternatives on Mastery Choices


  • 21/9/0 - This Mastery setup allows you to fight their mid in straight confrontations more easily than any of the other setups. It also allows you to punish short range mages such as Diana far more easily than other setups. I would strongly recommend it until you get used to Swain's play style.
  • 21/0/9 - Going 21/0/9 is good against long range skill shot based mids such as Lux or Orianna as it allows you to dodge the skill shots they throw out more easily and then gap close to punish them for missing. It also allows you to roam more easily.
  • 9/21/0 - When you need a tank rather than damage due to having some form of hyper carry bot and a squishy top/jungler. A good example of that would be Janna as support, Vayne as AD carry, Fiddlesticks as jungler, and Riven top.

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Starting Items

Early Game Items

  • Tear of the Goddess is sometimes a good buy if the other laner lacks high enough burst to kill you. You would need to buy this fairly early on if you want to get it stacked up in time for team fights. The main problem with it is that it delays your Rod of Ages from getting its stacks.
  • Rod of Ages gives you the three stats swain needs most and a huge boost to your sustain in lane.
  • Zhonya's Hourglass allows you to survive burst from other mages and to completely dominate any AD based champion in team fights. Also allows you to become your team's initiate.

Mid Game Items

  • Rabadon's Deathcap is an item that massively boosts your damage and sustain in team fights, a must buy for Swain's late game.
  • Void Staff grants you the magic penetration you need to deal with the Magic resist enemies tend to have late game. Allows you to easily destroy tanks as well as squishy targets.

Late Game Items

  • Abyssal Mask gives you magic penetration which is useful for killing squishy targets and Mr to deal with the other teams AP damage. Helps greats against melee AP opponents, not so much against poke comps.
  • Deathfire Grasp is still a really strong item and with its change to a max hp % and the way to interacts with Swain's e allows it to offer amazing damage for late game.
  • Lich Bane An underrated item on swain, this allows him to kill pretty much anyone as the damage it does is augmented by swain's Torment. A bit of math, with Swain's total ap ratio over 4 seconds being 3.84, dfg increases his damage by 15% of their max hp, .768 ap ratio from the augment, and 250~ extra base damage. Lich bane grants a .9 ap ratio and 60 base damage, but its all instant. The value of instant damage late game is that its far easier to switch targets and to burst a single target. Just like when building Deathfire Grasp, Lich Bane leaves you fairly squishy late game.
  • Thornmail is a very underestimated item that can be used when you really need to kill that AD carry or AD assassin that seems to be carrying their whole team. It completely counters and destroys life steal builds.
  • Randuin's Omen Probably the strongest counter to AD carries in the game as it makes it very difficult to damage or kite you once you get it.
  • Guardian Angel is probably the best item in the game for team fights late game if a few members of your front line get them. Gets kinda silly if more than three of these are on one team. Usually not as good as Randuin's Omen against most teams.
  • Liandry's Torment offers magic penetration and % based current hp damage, exactly what any AP carry needs to destroy tanky front lane targets.
  • Athene's Unholy Grail offers great mana regeneration in combat and in lane. Unfortantily, as grail only offers 60 AP and doesn't offer the same sort of tankiness Hourglass or Rod of Ages does, its not worth getting till late in the game typically.

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Carrion Renewal

Swain's Passive, Carrion Renewal, grants some mana to you each time you kill a unit. This is actually a far better passive than it seems like at first as it allows you to constantly harass in lane early without running out of mana or taking mana regeneration masteries/runes. The constant poke this allows you to do with careful last hitting is far more than most lane opponents can deal with. Just be careful to last hit minions, as if you miss too many you may find yourself going out of mana fairly quickly. Carion Renewal also allows Swain to skip on the second blue buff when he has a mana hungry jungler.


Swain's Q, Decrepify, creates a tether between you and a single target. Using q does not impair your movement and it does slow your enemies, so always use it while trying to escape someone.  Its slow amount increases and the damage increases slightly per level, but if the tether breaks from an enemy getting out of range, it will no longer do damage or slow.


Swain's W, Nevermove, creates an area of effect circle that snares anyone within it for 2 seconds and deals quite a bit of magic damage. This is swain's primary skill to secure kills, if he lands this in lane you can usually kill the other laner, and if he lands this in a tower siege or a poke fight at dragon, its usually a good time to engage.


Swain's E, Torment, Is his bread a butter skill. Using it on an opponent increases all damage from swain's other abilities and attacks by 20%. Between this, its ease of use to poke opponents, and its high scaling you always want to level out swain's e first.  Spam your e as much as you can on your lane opponents. The one caution is that while getting ganked you might not want to use your e as it does interrupt your movement for a moment.

Ravenous Flock

Swain's R, Ravenous Flock, is probably what he's most known for and why he's the crazy old bird wizard. It transforms him into a giant four eyed crow that sends its minions out to steal the life of his opponents. This skill is amazing sustain in lane and team fights, the only thing you really need to be worried about is getting bursted. A nice trick is to turn on r for a second at tower to pre-hit all three caster minions easily so you don't miss cs.

Nevermove or Torment Level 1

Never level the skill till you know for sure if you're fighting level one, just use ctrl+w if you see enemies level one to auto level the skill.
Take Nevermove first level 1 if you get into a team fight.
If you are not going to be level one fighting and your jungler isn't something like Alistar or Pantheon thats liable to gank mid as soon as they clear their first buff, take Torment and proceed to poke the other mid laner really hard with [[Torment] and auto attacks.

When to Level Nevermove over Decrepify

I say to usually level Decrepify before Nevermove due to the increased slow.
If you're trying to burst someone and you need to shove the lane, level out w before q. Nevermove being Leveled allows for much higher guaranteed damage if it lands.
Decrepify gives much better sustained damage against bruisers, and better ganks. The main problem with leveling Decrepify first is that should they flash after it lands it will do almost no damage once the tether breaks.

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Summoner Spells

    You want to have flash in like 99% of the time when you lane as swain, just due to its amazing power as both an offensive and defensive tool. Whether its flash dodging skill shots, flashing into their carries, or flashing to escape a jungle gank, its almost required to lane and team fight well as swain.

    Ignite is the other summoner that you want in almost every game. Unlike flash though there are a few other options that fill similar roles depending on the other team's comp.

    Exhaust is a situational pick, its sometimes useful against really hard match ups. The main pro to exhaust over ignite is that exhaust can be used during hard cc spells allowing you to stop their burst and sustain back up with ult. Usually better mid game than ignite, worse late and early unless you have a jungler who can capitalize on the extra cc for early ganks.

    Teleport is a great summoner to take against weak duelists who like to roam/push such as Twisted Fate. Works amazingly well with homeguard enchanted boots for hysterical ganks.
Very Situational Summoners

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Pros / Cons

Swain, just like every other champion excels in some areas while being lackluster in others.

Pros / Cons

+ Hard to kill
+ Amazing laning phase
+ Insane sustain
+ High Sustained dps
+ Very strong against AD champions
+ Strong dualist
- Weak against high range champions
- Struggles with shields
- Low burst late game
- Countered by Quicksilver Sash
- Has mana issues
- Fairly easy to kite

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Twisted Fate



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Play Style

Actually Using Swain

Now that you learned how to setup Swain's runes/masteries and what sort of matchups you should pick Swain for, its time to actually learn how to play him.


  • Try to Torment+auto attack the other laner as much as you can. Throw out a few Nevermove's once you hit lvl 4 if you think its safe to play aggressively. If you land one, its usually good to Torment+ignite+ Decrepify+auto to try to get the kill on their mid.
  • Swain's early game damage is typically underestimated
  • If you know their jungler won't show up, using Flash on them aggressively so they can't break the Decrepify tether with their own Flash will almost ensure the kill.

How To Combo

Team Fights

  • Always remember to use Zhonya's Hourglass when you're somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 life.  Try to focus the AD carry in team fights, the other members aren't as important for you to kill as you can out sustain most of them.
  • If you have a strong AD carry, remember that you can use your Nevermove to peel for your own team mates rather than using it for damage.
  • The most important thing you need to avoid is getting bursted in a fight before you can get off Zhonya's Hourglass, you're no use to your team if you're dead, even if they did burn a ton of cool downs on it.
  • Be a threat to their carries, focusing down their tank usually won't win you the fight.

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Game Phases

Now that we've gone over both how Swain functions as a champion and how to use him, its time to go over what to do at each piece of the game. For simplicities sake I've broken it down into three sections.

Early Game

Mid Game

Late Game

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Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed reading my guide about how to play Swain, The master Tactician. Thank you for your time reading my guide, feel free to leave a comment about how I could improve my guide.

My Twitch Stream is right here, I'm planning to start streaming more regularly in the future. Recently changed my summoner name from Fas Scriptor to TMP Fate so I had to create a new twitch account.