With sOAZ being the impenetrable force that he always has been and after Bwipo's outstanding performance on Swain in his second ever professional League of Legends match for Fnatic, they chose to combine their strengths and create the ultimate Swain guide!
Why has Swain seen such a sudden surge in popularity?
All of the other highly contested top laners are either favourable or a 50/50 matchup for Swain.
Swain has the ability to be flexed between mid lane and top lane, meaning your opponents don't know exactly what they're up against. This adds a ton of value to him during the pick and ban phase. He does well into virtually every matchup given the flexibility to adapt your runes easily. Another notable strength is his sheer survivability and damage output in a team fight. Swain can be nigh unkillable at times even with a full damage build due to the incredible amount of health and healing his kit provides.
He does have some drawbacks however. Any champion with high or sustained damage output that can survive the initial burst from Swain can turn him from a bird of prey into the opponent's next meal. Another flaw is how unreliable Nevermove can be. If your opponent is smart, they will try to dodge and weave between Nevermove and any nearby minions or monsters to escape your talons which may turn a fight in their favour. A few champions such as Camille or Kled can give you a tough laning phase as they can force you to trade and there's not much you can do about it... He does have a few niche picks that work well against him, but in a competitive setting you most likely won't be seeing many of those champions.
What kind of a team composition does he fit into best?
It's really important that your team has some Crowd Control to enable your passive, Ravenous Flock, due to how heavily Soul Fragments affect the damage your Demonflare(R) deals. Having more CC means more chances to get Soul Fragments.
Swain has to have a Soul Fragment to be able to activate Demonic Ascension. Getting a free Fragment from a friendly CC as a fight is initiated makes sure that you can pop it and execute the fight properly.
Phase Rush allows Swain to shore up the lack of mobility his kit provides. It also makes your all-in incredibly threatening as you are capable of sticking to almost any target with the extra movement speed and being able to tank several tower shots thanks to the innate healing Demonic Ascension provides. Aery is a good alternative against bruisers that force trades on you and you can’t escape from (such as Camille or Kled).
Manaflow Band grants you an additional 25 mana, up to a cap of 250, when hitting an enemy champion with a skill. Once the 250 cap is reached, you’ll restore 1% of your maximum mana every five seconds. This will help you sustain mana in lane before purchasing your Catalyst of Aeons and keep you topped on mana later into the game.
Celerity provides some additional movement speed which is great for any champion without any built in mobility. Celerity will allow you to chase down priority targets easier and can allow you to dodge critical skill shots by a pixel or two that you otherwise wouldn’t. It also provides a small amount of AP based on your bonus movement speed, which is nothing to scoff at.
Gathering Storm provides additional AP every ten minutes based on the length of the game. Swain’s strongest attribute is his late game prowess. The later the game goes, the scarier Swain becomes, so Gathering Storm will make your late game that much more frightening as you’ll continue to endlessly scale. The additional AP will allow you to heal for more with Soul Fragments and Demonic Ascension(R), and deal more damage with your abilities.
Magical Footwear grants you a pair of slightly magical boots at ten minutes (or sooner based on takedowns) which give 10 more movement speed than normal boots of speed. You won’t be roaming as swain or playing too aggressively until at least 10 minutes, so the free boots are an obvious choice. Who doesn’t want a free 300 gold item?
Minion Dematerializer will help to foil your opponents plans of pushing you under tower as you don’t have a lot of early waveclear, while also providing you additional permanent damage to minions of the type you Dematerialize.
Take Flash and Teleport as your summoner spells of choice. These are fairly obvious choices for most any top laner.
Flash offers an instant short distance blink which you can utilise as an engage tool to reach priority targets, or as an escape tool. As Swain has no mobility in his kit, flash is his only means of reaching the backline easily.
Teleport allows you to teleport to an allied unit, meaning you can join your team for a fight from the other side of the map. You can also use Teleport as a way to force the enemy team into a unfavourable fight as you can flank behind them, making it impossible for them to flee your grasp.
Passive: Ravenous Flock
When an enemy champion is immobilized, you can rip a Soul Fragment from them dealing some magic damage and pulling the target towards you. Soul Fragments heal you for a percentage of your maximum health and are stored in reserve, which empower the damage burst from your Demonflare (R).
The health provided from Ravenous Flock makes it incredibly hard for anyone to poke you down and create kill pressure onto you. You can flat out ignore poke later into the game due to the immense amounts of healing provided.
Q: Death’s Hand
Swain shoots bolts of lightning from his hands in an arc damaging the first enemies hit. Hitting any one target with multiple bolts deals bonus damage to that target, allowing you to have some crazy burst damage if anyone tries to get up close and personal. If any of the bolts manage to kill what they strike, the bolt continues through them and restores a percent of your maximum mana. This makes Death’s Hand a perfect tool for farming once you are able to decimate minion waves with the help of Minion Dematerializer.
Death’s Hand is a versatile skill. It can be utilized to poke an enemy at max range, or you can try to land as many bolts as possible onto them for a large chunk of damage. Due to its short cooldown, you can weave Death’s Hand in multiple times during a fight allowing you to deal crazy amounts of damage, especially if you are hitting multiple bolts on a single target.
W: Vision of Empire
Choosing a spot within the huge target range will summon a demonic eye, revealing the area and exploding after a short period. The explosion deals damage to any enemy within the blast and slows. Any enemy champions caught within the blast are revealed for a period of time and drop a Soul Fragment.
Vision of Empire has a massive range which can allow you to pick up kills or assists from almost half the map away. You can get creative with it and become the embodiment of The Master Tactician himself. Whether it be cutting off fleeing enemies in a choke point, ensuring their death, or simply slowing a target, allowing your team to catch up to them, the sky's the limit. Vision of Empire can be hard to hit on an enemy who isn’t CC’d, so try to combo it with Nevermove (E) and Ravenous Flock (passive) to ensure it lands.
Bwipo using Vision Empire to cut off Giant's escape route during EU LCS Week 9 (2018 Spring Spit)
Try to fish for Nevermove when the enemy laner tries to cs. If it connects, follow up with Vision of Empire, Ravenous Flock and Death’s Hand for a free trade.
Swain launches a demonic claw in the target direction, dealing damage to any enemy it passes through. Upon reaching its maximum distance, the claw returns to Swain, detonating on the first enemy hit, dealing magic damage and rooting all nearby enemies.
Nevermove is your main tool to dictate the outcome of a fight. You can use it to catch an out of position target, to stop an enemy engage in its tracks, or to even just get some extra poke and sustain while in lane. You can proc Ravenous Flock (Passive) if Nevermove roots an enemy champion, allowing for some extra sustain and possibly a kill if you manage to catch the right target out.
Bwipo using Nevermove to catch out GIA Steeelback during EU LCS Week 9 (2018 Spring Spit)
R: Demonic Ascension
Upon activation, Swain frees the demon within, gaining bonus health for the duration. You drain the closest three enemies, dealing magic damage and draining their health. After draining enough health, You can choose to end Demonic Ascension early and cast Demonflare (R), consuming all stored Soul Fragments, dealing a burst of damage to all enemies within the effect radius. Demonflare is cast automatically at the end of the ult duration if not cast earlier.
Demonic Ascension can be the difference maker in a teamfight. If used correctly, you’ll destroy your opponents hopes and dreams of ever winning a fight again and leave them quothing “Nevermore”. It should be pretty much impossible for you to die once you have your Zhonya’s Hourglass as you will continue draining health while in stasis, which is almost unfair!
Start out by maxing Death’s Hand (Q). This is your main tool for waveclear and damage in any sort of fight which makes it the obvious choice. Follow up by maxing Nevermove (E) as the lower cooldown will allow you to CC your targets more often, forcing them to fear you even more than they already should. Death’s Hand and Nevermove are too good to leave until last, meaning Vision of Empire (W) draws the short straw here. You’ll be prioritizing points in it last.
Nevermove (E) + Vision of Empire (W) + Ravenous Flock (Passive) + Death’s Hand (Q)
This will be your main go to combo throughout most of the game. This combo will deal a nice chunk of damage to your opponent and leave them no room to fight back as you’ll have already finished your combo and be at a safe distance away by the time Nevermove’s root wears off. Use Ravenous Flock to guarantee both Death’s Hand and Vision of Empire find purchase.
Nevermove (E) + Vision of Empire (W) + Ravenous Flock (Passive) + Death’s Hand (Q) + Demonic Ascension (R)
Your main All in combo. You’ll want to use this when you can kill your target. It's pretty much the same as the above combo but you’ll cast Demonic Ascension at the end of your normal combo and chase down your opponent instead of retreating. You’ll be able to cast Death’s Hand multiple times before Demonic Ascension ends, and Nevermove will be off cooldown towards the end of its span. Try to use it to proc Ravenous Flock, pulling the opponent back towards you and into Demonflare, ensuring their demise.
Doran’s Ring is a great starting item for almost all mages. Swain is no exception. It provides a nice amount of stats, all of which Swain can make good use of, as well as a passive which helps with mana sustain when killing minions. Grab two Health Potions along with this for some extra sustain.
EARLY GAME CORE
Aim to get a Catalyst of Aeons on your first recall. Catalyst provides extra health and mana to help you sustain until your first big item purchase. It is possible to get a Tear of the Goddess after Catalyst if you believe the game will stall out long enough for you to stack it, and in a lane where you aren’t being pressured.
Tear is great into tanks with a lot of sustain such as Cho’Gath and Maokai, but I prefer skipping tear most of the time as it can take a long time to stack.
Turning your Catalyst of Aeons into a Rod of Ages as soon as possible should be prioritized as it needs time to scale. Abyssal Mask used to be a good alternative to Rod of Ages, but due to its recently received nerfs, and swain benefiting greatly from the extra damage Rod of Ages provides, Abyssal shouldn’t be considered as an alternative any longer. Grab your upgraded boots after, usually Sorcerer’s Shoes or Mercury’s Treads depending on if you need the damage or survivability more. Ninja Tabi can be a great alternative versus heavy AD compositions with a big reliance on auto attacking. Aim to get a Zhonya’s Hourglass and Liandry's Torment after this. Which one choose to pick up first depends on team compositions and some personal preference. The stasis effect from Zhonya’s can allow you to sustain yourself in the middle of a teamfight while avoiding any damage, which is great for avoiding burst or against heavy sustained damage champions, such as Kog’Maw. Liandry’s will leave you better geared towards killing tankier champions, such as Sejuani or Maokai where the ten percent damage boost will be more noticable.
The stasis from Zhonya’s provides a necessary time frame to make sure you can sustain yourself in front of the enemy team and become a pseudo tank. If you’ve got a front line to rely on, you can go Liandry's to make sure you’re able to kill tank and squishies alike.
Late Game Core
Rabadon’s Deathcap and Void Staff are the staple last items to round out your build. Rabadon’s will increase your total AP by an additional 40% making it an exceptional item for anyone who builds AP and adding a huge chunk of power to your late game potential. Void Staff will allow you to ignore 35% of your opponents Magic Resistance, making it a lot easier to deal with Magic Resist stacking champions.
Morellonomicon can be purchased to help deal with heavy healing champions, such as Vladimir or Soraka, as it lowers healing effects after you deal damage to a target. You can apply Grievous Wounds onto multiple enemies due to your ability to AOE. It also gives some more Magic Penetration, making it a good pick up versus teams who build little to no Magic Resistance.
Banshee’s Veil is a great pickup when facing a heavy magic damage composition as it provides some Magic Resistance and the spell shield can help you avoid crucial abilities, such as a Sleepy Trouble Bubble from Zoe.
You’ll typically want to passively farm in lane while attempting to land a Nevermove (E) onto the opposing laner when they try to farm. If it lands, you will want to finish the initial combo mentioned above to deal a nice amount of damage to them, while healing yourself with their Soul Fragments and not taking any damage in return. This will ensure that your opponent can’t play aggressively without fearing dying outright. Remember that Ravenous Flock (Passive) can be proc’d with any friendly CC, not just your own. Ask your jungle to gank an aggressive opponent. You can follow their engage up with ravenous flock and your full combo to pretty much guarantee a defensive flash or a kill.
Bwipo harassing his lane opponent GIA Ruin during EU LCS Week 9 (2018 Spring Spit)
You’ll generally be grouped with your team for a fight as you want to be there to follow up the initiation with Ravenous Flock(Passive). Pop Demonic Ascension(R) as it all kicks off to ensure you stay topped off on health while dishing out damage to the three closest targets. It is usually a good idea to stand between your other carries and the opposing front line, ensuring that your carries can't be picked off easily while still dealing damage. Look to land Nevermove(E) onto an out of position high priority target.Follow up with your full combo onto them and this should be certain death to any squishy target without Cleanse or Quicksilver Sash.
You should be up front trying to create space for your backline. Rely on Death’s Hand and Vision of Empire to stay in the fight whilst holding Nevermove to follow up on someone else’s CC or to catch an unsuspecting ADC
Bwipo as Swain in a team fight against Giants during EU LCS Week 9 (2018 Spring Spit)
All in all, Swain is an incredibly strong team fighter that fits perfectly into any composition. I’d highly recommend any top or mid lane player to pick up this champion, you won't regret it! If you’re looking for a champion with high sustain while still being a damage dealer that can pick apart enemy teams, then this bird is the word!
Huge thanks go to the Fnatic top laners sOAZ and Bwipo for perfectly answering all of my questions on Swain. We wish sOAZ a speedy recovery and the rest of Fnatic the best of luck in the finals against G2!