Swain is one League of Legends champion that’s gone through a lot during the past few years. Before his rework, he was a crippled old man but had a very unique kit. His toggleable ultimate and AOE abilities made his team-fighting extremely fun, as he could stand right in the middle of action and drain-tank his way to victory.
His rework gave him a much-needed visual update and changed his kit quite a bit. He still has similar core concepts, but is strikingly different. Perhaps the biggest difference is where he’s played. In the past, he was a solo laner, but now he’s resigned to the support role. Very few people know the strength of solo lane Swain still.
Swain has a unique role in the middle lane. He’s not a hard carry like Yasuo or Syndra, but one that has the ability to carry games regardless. This unique strategy is great for those who are team players, want to be team-fighting gods, or simply want to remember the days of old Swain.
Why play Swain mid?
As mentioned, Swain might not have the solo carry potential as other mid laners in League of Legends. But with a skillful player piloting the pick, it can play a crucial role in a team composition as the frontline, with some of the best follow up crowd control.
In addition, Swain is an insane team fighter with a very strong mid-game power spike. Not only that, but with the right runes his early game is good in some situations, and he is a joy to gank for with his Ravenous Flock passive.
Support Swain is meant for straight-up damage usually, but this mid lane Swain build gives more utility and is best for coordinated teams. That makes it less ideal in solo-queue (though not bad at all), but better for tournaments like Clash. Indeed, premade teams with a lot of carry players should consider this Swain build if, for example, the top, jungle and/or support prefer squishier champions. He can easily fill the frontline role in squishy compositions, to ensure otherwise difficult late-game team fighting is manageable.
It should be noted, that you can bring this build to other lanes too, although this guide will focus on mid specifically.
The runes and Summoner Spells
If you look at op.gg, see the variety of runes Swain players use, then look at this rune page above, you might scratch your head a bit. Especially considering Grasp of the Undying’s scaling is limited on ranged champions. Those are valid things to think about, but this rune page has very specific strengths.
First off, though Grasp of the Undying gives less permanent health to ranged League of Legends champions, it, along with Overgrowth and Swain’s passive, work together very well to give Swain a ton of health. This is crucial for surviving through extended team fights. Grasp is also a great laning rune, where Swain can be exploited the most. Throwing out these empowered auto attacks every few seconds can chunk laners with little sustain in the opening levels. Bone Plating, which helps you negate early damage from enemies, pairs well with it to make his early trading decent into a lot of matchups.
The rest of the runes are allocated into scaling elements. The double CDR runes of Transcendence and Scaling CDR allow Swain to hit 40% CDR by his third or fourth item. At that point, his all-important ultimate has a shorter cooldown and his Death’s Hand (Q) can be spammed. Gathering Storm is another must-take because this build focuses on his tankiness primarily, so it gives him a nice bump in AP, which leads to more damage and more healing.
For Summoner Spells, the most consistent is Teleport. Swain isn’t one to go for a ton of kills early, but would much rather have better back timers for his items. Both Ignite and Exhaust are great situational spells that are crucial for changing the tide of skirmishes. This is mostly personal preference, so feel free to experiment.
To begin the game, you should build Corrupting Potion for Swain. This item helps him sustain in lane with both his HP and mana. Plus, the burn on its activation adds a sweet bit of damage to his attacks that make a real difference in fights. After this, your first item should always be Rod of Ages. This is a no-brainer, as it provides everything Swain wants. Health, mana, ability power and a fantastic passive that keeps him topped off on mana in fights.
Boots are very situational for Swain. Mercury Treads and Ninja Tabi are helpful to tank in different scenarios, but Sorcerer’s Shoes give magic penetration, which can help with snowballing.
After this, Zhonya’s Hourglass should be bought 90% of the time. The active ability on it is essential for Swain to team-fight effectively, heal up and zone enemies off. The armor, AP and CDR are welcome too.
From here, the next item should be either a Spirit Visage or Liandry’s Torment. This depends more on what your team needs: if a frontline is needed urgently, Visage helps a ton to take up that role. But, on the other hand, Liandry’s is a large damage power spike. Regardless of which you build first, the other should follow close behind.
Rounding out your build should be Rabadon’s Deathcap or Morellonomicon. Deathcap is overall better for Swain, as the amplified healing and damage makes Swain a late-game monster. There are circumstances where Morellonomicon is needed though, and since Swain can apply the healing debuff to many players easily, it should always be considered.
The early game is the place to play the safest as Swain. There are quite a few difficult matchups for Swain in the mid lane, as many meta League of Legends champions have good early games. Make sure to trade when your Grasp of the Undying is ready to use, and not to use too much mana. His wave clear is rather lackluster, so wasting mana on unnecessary trades could lead to wave management difficulties.
The ideal first back is when you reach 1,100 gold. That’s because this amount of gold allows you to buy Catalyst of Aeons, an item that feels great on completion and builds into Rod of Ages. Catalyst helps sustain even more in lane and be quite tanky. It means you can stay in lane longer and survive through ganks.
Overall, the main focus should be on farming. You certainly have the ability to skirmish if you have a good early game jungle, as your passive and Vision of Empire (W) are useful tools even early on. Roaming to other lanes isn’t recommended though, because Swain isn’t very mobile and needs to prioritize CS to hit his two-item spike.
Swain’s mid-game spike arrives with the completion of Rod of Ages and Zhonya’s Hourglass. At this point, your goal is to group with your team and find winning team fights. Keep in mind, Swain’s CC is best utilized to follow up, as it can be unreliable otherwise. So, unless you can snag a pick off onto an enemy, wait for your primary engage to hit, then follow up on that.
In regards to team-fighting, your position matters a lot. The way you position will vary from game to game, depending on who has what gold. Generally, Swain has two ways to play out 5v5s. The first is standing in front of your team to absorb damage. The goal for this is to protect your team, and more importantly, your ADC.
The second is to get right in the middle of the enemy team. This way, you’re a threat to the enemy carries and are more easily able to hit everyone. Usually, this positioning strategy is best used while ahead.
During this time though, don’t forget to farm! Swain only grows stronger and scarier with items, so gold is crucial. Of course, that proves true for every League of Legends champion, but even more so for the late-game Battle Mage Swain.
Swain’s kit is fairly straightforward, but there are some cool things you can do with it. The best combo is pretty obvious, but when you land a Nevermove (E), immediately W right in front of the target then use your passive to drag them into the center. This guarantees the damage. Follow that up with a close-range Q and a Grasp-empowered auto-attack.
Find creative ways to use W too. One of the most useful ways to use it in lane is to stop enemies from backing if they’re under their turret. Another good use it to scout enemy camps to locate their jungler. And, of course, use it to check dark parts of the map, whether its bushes or objectives.
Finally, understand the importance of Swain’s ultimate. Its a tremendously powerful tool, but because it is, Swain struggles to fight effectively without it. Make sure your team knows your ultimate cooldown when big team fights are about to start, because without it Swain is only half a League of Legends champion.