[Guide]Swain, the Demon Necromancer

Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

NessOnett

Senior Member

11-20-2010

Swain has been out for a good chunk of time now, and still has not a single guide on this forum. I have been playing him since day 1 of his release, and my last guide was well received by the community, I figured I'd try my hand at this one.
Swain is a very very underrated champion in my opinion, for much the same reason that Garen was considered worthless for so long. Nobody knows how the hell to build him to his potential, or play him as a member of a team. I die a little inside every time I see a Swain rush an archangel's(well actually I die when I see ANYONE rush an Archangel's as it's a horrible first item but...)

Swain, like the title says, is a Necromancer, I don't care what anyone says. And yes, necromancers can exist without a skeletal warrior following them around. They are masters of decay, and disabling, which is what Swain does. Much like Mordekaiser he is designed to outlast the opponent and slowly take them out, but unlike Mordekaiser he is extremely relevant in team-fights because he can cripple people while he's doing it since every one of his skills is a disable. As for the Demon part...his ult turns him into a demon.

This guide will not be as in-depth as my Shaco guide because Swain is a far less trick-oriented character and I've had far less hands-on time with him compared to the half year's worth of playtime prepping for the last guide.

Skills(just a brief description, more advanced tactics will come later):

Innate-Carrion Renewal(passive): Swain's base mana regeneration is increased by 300% for 5 seconds after killing an enemy unit.

Awesome passive for early laning. Not as great as Cho's, but as long as you last hit a decent amount you should be able to keep your mana at spammable levels. Because it's "base mana," stacking regen doesn't make this passive amazing, but in early laning you will easily notice it.

Q-Decrepify(Active): Swain sets his raven(range 550) to cripple an enemy. Over the next 3 seconds, the target takes 25/40/55/70/85(+0.3 per Ability Power) magic damage per second and is slowed by 20/23/26/29/32%.
Cooldown 8 second. Costs 60/70/80/90/100 Mana

Amazing early harassment skill. Good zoning because people back away to get out of range of it. But beyond that, it's a bit lackluster, so we leave it level 1 until endgame.

W-Nevermove(Active): Swain marks a target area(range 900). After a short delay, mighty talons grab hold of enemy units dealing 80/120/160/200/240(+0.7 per Ability Power) magic damage and rooting them for 2 seconds.
Cooldown 18/16/14/12/10 seconds. Costs 80/90/100/110/120 Mana

This is why I started playing Swain, my favorite skill of his. Easy to hit with on a decrepified target, great hard AOE CC with a very short cooldown. Also primary minion clearing tool late game.

E-Torment(Active): Swain afflicts his target(range 625), dealing 75/115/155/195/235(+0.8 per Ability Power) magic damage to them over time and causing them to take 8/11/14/17/20% increased damage from Swain's attacks for 4 seconds.
Cooldown 10 seconds. Costs 65/70/75/80/85 Mana

Swain's defining skill. And the reason why his other skills look mildly weak in terms of damage...because they were balanced against this. It should always be your opener, kept on your primary target. That is of course except in the beginning, where you can bait people into fights, put this on them towards the end, and they will underestimate the damage over time they take from it. Many kills gained on running targets.

R-Ravenous Flock(Toggle): Swain transforms into the form of a raven, during this time up to 3 lesser ravens strike out at nearby enemies each second. Swain is healed for half the damage dealt by the Ravens.
Cooldown: 10 seconds. Magic Damage: 50/75/90(+0.2 per Ability Power).
Initial Cost: 25 Mana. Upkeep Cost: 5/7/9 additional Mana per second

Looks like a weak ultimate, but allows you to lifesteal through CC, do decent damage, keep your life up in team-fights, or in between(Swain should never have to town). Also used for late game minion farming.

Masteries:
9/0/21
You want to build up to Archaic Knowledge and Presence of the Master, making sure to max Archmage's Savvy, haste, Greed, Meditation, Good Hands, Utility Mastery, Quickness and Intelligence...all pretty standard.

Runes:
Marks: Greater Mark of Insight(.95 magic penetration)
Seals: Greater Seal of Clarity(+1.8 mana regen/5 seconds at level 18)
Glyphs: Greater Glyph of Shielding(+2.7 Magic Resist at level 18)
Quintessences: Greater Quintessence of Fortitude(+32.4 Health)

You're doing magic damage, and the build offers few magic pen items, but between the runes and the mastery you get a decent amount.
Mana is a problem early and mid game, but the scaling regen runes are the same as the non-scaling at level 4(before which your passive should keep your supply fine).
skills are key, you want them as spammable as possible.
Early health allows you to be that much more aggressive in your lane.

Summoner Abilities:
Ignite - Early kills are easy with this, your burst damage is mediocre, Swain is the master of DOTs(in your face Malzahar). It also plays VERY well with Torment(+20% bonus true damage...yay).
Ghost - Allow you to catch people, run away, and stay around enemies since your DemonBird needs to be close to work.

Items:
-(*)1x health potion
-(1)Doran's Ring
-(2)Boots of Speed->(6)Sorcerer's Boots OR Mercury Treads
-(3)Ruby Crystal+(4)Sapphire Crystal->(5)Catalyst the Protector+(7)Blasting Wand->(8)Rod of Ages
-(9)Giant's Belt+(10)Blasting Wand+(11)Amplifying Tome->(12)Rylai's Crystal Scepter

That is the standard starting build for Swain, after that you need to go tank 90% of the time. Yes, you heard me, TANK. Your next item should usually be a Glacial Shroud(Frozen Heart) or a Banshee's Veil.
Randuin's Omen and Sunfire Capes also work, or even Abyssal scepter. If you decide eventually that you need more damage, or if you're rolling them early and don't need any tankiness to win, the only other AP items you should consider are Zonya's Ring or Void Staff(if tanks are troubling you).

Mana regen does very little for Swain, especially considering you should have blue buff all the time. Having a large mana pool is required, and the best way to do that without sacrificing all of your survivability is to get a Rod of Ages. This also gives you AP, which is nice.
After that, you need the Rylai's to make your Demonbird slow. Having a permanent AOE slowing aura around you is amazing. This ups your health even more(with just these 2 you should have well over 3k), and a decent chunk of AP.

Ability Build:
1-Decrepify
2-Nevermove
3-Torment
4-Torment
5-Torment
6-Ravenous Flock
7-Torment
8-Nevermove
9-Torment(MAXED)
10-Nevermove
11-Ravenous Flock
12-Nevermove
13-Nevermove(MAXED)
14-Decrepify
15-Decrepify
16-Ravenous Flock(MAXED)
17-Decrepify
18-Decrepify(MAXED)

Torment is the last skill you get because the disables on the first two allow for a much better early laning, and decent chance of early kills if your lane partner can do damage.
Once you get it at level 3 though, it's your highest priority, as it's your main source of damage. Following that, most people level up the Lazerbird, but the slow amount barley changes, compared to the 2s CDR on nevermove. This wasn't even a difficult decision for me. Not to mention the minion farming improvement.
Obviously getting your ult whenever possible.

What to do:
Always take a side-lane with Swain. He is an AWFUL solo because his damage is mediocre, he has weak early game escape potential, and his disables are so much more effective with a lanemate that can follow up on them. Pantheons, Garens, even Tarics are great lane partners. Someone with a decent chunk of repeatable early burst and is not afraid to do it.
Harass, harass, harass. The bird is annoying at level 1. At level 2, that should slow them enough for easy Nevermove catches, have your lanemate come in on a target that's rooted for 2 seconds at level 2, and your opponents will not be happy.
At level 3-5 is your best chance to get a kill with your combo and ignite, or at least get them to the point of either hiding outside of exp range or having to town. Either way, they should be dead or underlevelled.

teamfights with Swain are pretty simple. Stay in the middle of the fight with your ult on(you can take a decent number of hits, and you want your ravens hitting as many people as possible). Target the carry with everything you have(open with Torment of course), and throw a slow or a root on anyone that looks low and might run or is running(your cooldowns are low enough).

Most important thing though, is blue buff. There is not a character in this game who needs blue buff more than Swain and Taric for the way in which their ults work. And Taric has a much more effective way to get his mana back, so that leaves you. You can get it yourself at level 6+ with full mana(as long as you don't leave your ult on the whole time, toggle it on and off a few times.) or if you're desperate ask team to help. But it is yours, take it.

See? not the most in-depth, but it's better than nothing. Swain isn't a nuke, and he isn't a carry(unless very fed...which is possible). He's not a main tank either, but a very beefy damage dealer meant to disable the enemy, protect his teammates, and survive.

Hope this helps clear up some misconceptions about the character and teaches at least 1 person to play him right.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Wesu

Senior Member

11-20-2010

Couple things, mana regen IS VERY IMPORTANT on Swain, because you don't always have the blue buff; in fact I take clarity on him. Also, Swain is a beast solo. He's like Vlad but much, much harder to kill.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

FlameKraken

Senior Member

11-20-2010

Well done guide.
Deserves a bump.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Yellow Monkey

This user has referred a friend to League of Legends, click for more information

Senior Member

11-20-2010

Woah. This is completely different from my build. o.o


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Smellis

Senior Member

11-20-2010

Ehhhh I don't agree with everything on here but its decent. I'd say you're wrong about swain's early game damage. Granted it holds water when hes going against 2 tanks but in a balanced lane he actually has the ability to score a lot of early kills if people refuse to back off. Item build i sort of disagree with, rylai's I'd get earlier just cause having all that CC makes him very hard to kill. And just IMO I do like having AA staff on him, i don't rush the staff but I do get the tear early then focus else where, hasn't failed me yet.

Good mentioning the survival stuff, so tired of seeing casters build glass cannon and getting killed in 2 seconds. I'd put something in your guide about using R properly, letting 2-3 waves fly out then turning it off while laning to keep yourself topped off.

But other than that good guide.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

NessOnett

Senior Member

11-20-2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smellis View Post
I do like having AA staff on him, i don't rush the staff but I do get the tear early then focus else where, hasn't failed me yet.
Well his damage is decent like I said, and he can get early kills easily, but it's hard for him to do it ALONE and having a partner makes things much better.

As for the AA staff, the problem is that a caster's early game is where they shine. Getting a tear does next to nothing for you, except that it builds into an AA. The tear slows you down to the point where your damage is low and survivability is awful. It's the same thing with other casters, especially Kassadin, the tear cripples their early game compared to how they could feed themselves if they didn't have it.

Rylai's is the second item after ROA, so I'm not sure how I could get it "earlier" since it gives no mana and you need a decent pool for Swain to work.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Gentle Casca

Senior Member

11-20-2010

Hilariously, I already posted a Swain guide about a week or two ago.

There are other guides available, but it's refreshing to see another fellow Pappy who builds him a little bit tankier. Honestly, I feel as though Abyssal Scepter and Spirit Visage are two of the best items for him as they both offer tank stats along with a boost to his abilities: Increased healing, increased AP, Magic Resist, and Magic Pen; not to mention, SV is insanely cheap.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Kouri

This user has referred a friend to League of Legends, click for more information

Senior Member

11-22-2010

Bump for the greater good of all summoners who wish to play Swain effectively. High mana pool + blue buff + building tanky on Swain means you run into a team fight and turn your ult on and you don't die. Don't underestimate the power of spell vamp, any good Morgana player can vouch for this. Also the cheap increase in healing and CDR on SV sounds promising.


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

omegaura

This user has referred a friend to League of Legends, click for more information

Senior Member

11-22-2010

Glad to see some good focus on the Old Swain. He really doesn't get as much credit as he deserves.

I agree on the tank/mage build up.

I usually run, Dorans > catalyst > Rod of Ages > Spirit Visage > Will of Ancients/ Rylais > and finish with Zhonya's and any other relevant item.

Frozen heart sounds like a great idea and is a good source of CDR. that with SV and your sitting pretty. not to mention the frozen heart debuff at higher increases your "squishy" survivability.

I didn't use to use Will of Ancients before, but the synergy with his ult and spirit visage give it a nice big o'l boost. I've been experimenting finishing that item build with some more spell vamp in the revolvers or get a caster partner to get the WoA as well for the double aura buff.

back in the day I had some crazy idea with torment + on activate dmg


Comment below rating threshold, click here to show it.

Redenbacher

Senior Member

11-23-2010

I've been using RoA on Swain exclusively lately. However, what I disagree with in this build is starting out with Catalyst. Catalyst gives you early game sustainability - which Swain does NOT need. Instead, grab the Blasting Wand and boots first, and finish RoA on your next trip back.

Why? That early 40 AP is huge for your subtle DoT spells, and anyone who overextends dies quickly underestimating the damage you're dealing. This nets you an early kill or two to finish off that RoA faster. After they're dead, or B, you can last-hit your mana back and heal with your ultimate - no need for Catalyst at this point.

I haven't been using Rylai's much, and instead build Abyssal immediately after RoA and Sorc Shoes are finished. Then grab Glacial Shroud for the armor and CDR, followed by more AP (Maybe Rylai's or Zhonya's at this point). I haven't needed to finish the Frozen Heart, as it's expensive and not always necessary. Furthermore, you don't want to slow your scaling through the game by too much. 9/0/21 + Glacial Shroud + Elixir has you over the cap anyway.

Other than those bits of thought, I agree with everything in here.

My biggest problem with Swain right now is wanting to open with Torment and then root, but they always run away before you can get in range for both

Unrelated *looks at thread title*, at what point does Swain start necromancing demons?

@Omega - Your ult is a bad example of why Will of the Ancients would be a good choice - since it's AoE, you only net 15% of the lifesteal benefit. Torment and Bird might net you some decent lifesteal, but I haven't tried it myself as I've wanted mitigation/AP over the tiny bit of Spell Vamp.