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In-Depth Swain Guide: How to Play Swain Like a Pro

Published: October 16, 2021
How to Play Swain in LoL and Use His Abilities

Swain, The Noxian Grand General, is perhaps the best champion rework Riot Games has ever done. Despite various nerfs, the champion was designed to be a mid-laner but has been dominant in the top lane, bottom lane, and support role. There are endless possibilities on how you can play Swain, and that’s why you will find different Swain guides telling you contradictory statements.

In this Swain guide, we bring you all of the relevant information to dominate as Swain in all of his various roles. It will allow you to learn how to play Swain like professional players and fix some of the fundamental problems preventing you from climbing the ranked ladder.

We will talk about Swain as a laner first before moving on to the support role in this guide. It will allow you to master the fundamentals of playing Swain entirely, which you can subsequently apply to play support Swain.

Swain’s Identity

The quality that makes Swain stand out among other battlemages is that he can front line team fights very effectively. It is possible due to the insane amount of healing and crowd control built into his kit. That sustain allows him to have such a versatile build path, and you can either be a tank or burst mage according to the game’s situation.

We will teach you how to play the tanky Swain in the top lane while discussing the burst mage in the other two lanes in this Swain guide.

Pros to Playing Swain

1. He Enhances the Team’s Composition

Swain is one of the few ability power champions that work very well in the top/bottom lane. If you are playing Swain in one of these two roles, then that means the opponent players will be forced to make some difficult decisions while building their items.

Bilgewater Swain Guide with Feathers on Outfit

In most cases, the top laners opt for items that give them armor stats to negate the damage of ADCs in late-game team fights. It will allow you to deal obscene amounts of damage to these champions, but if they build magic resistance, then your attack damage carries will have some fun with them.

2. The Best Magic Damage Team Fighter

There are so many wonderful champions like Orianna and Syndra out there that can turn the game around singlehandedly. Orianna with her excellent crowd control and Syndra with her insane amounts of burst damage. Swain offers you the best of both.

If you know how to play Swain, you will be dealing vast amounts of damage to the opponent champions and ensure that they can’t run away without spending a lot of resources. This quality makes him one of the best frontline team fighters in League of Legends.

3. Amazing vision control

The most frequent reason behind players losing in the late game is falling victim to an enemy bait. Vision control is absolutely critical to doing well in League of Legends. It could be either them hiding in a bush or flanking from behind you. Swain solves this problem very effectively.

Your W will grant you free vision without the need of any ward at your target location, and this could be the difference between your team winning or losing.

Cons to Playing as Swain

1. No Built-in Mobility

Swain is one of the few ability power champions that work very well in the top/bottom lane. If you are playing Swain in one of these two roles, then that means the opponent players will be forced to make some difficult decisions while building their items.

Champion Swain in League of Legends

The current state of League of Legends is very punishing for immobile champions. Unfortunately, Swain falls into this category as well. If you don’t play your lane according to your strengths and make an error in your wave management, you will be in trouble. The enemy jungler can easily gank you and take some crucial summoner spells away from you.

2. Swain is Weak in the Early Game

Swain is an absolute monster in the mid/late game, but the same cannot be said about his early game. If they know what they are doing, the opponent can easily play around with your early game damage weaknesses. If you can’t land your skill shots on the opponents, they can quickly turn the fight on to you.

3. Grievous Wounds is a Strong Counter

Many champions are reliant on healing in League of Legends. Dr. Mundo and Fiddlesticks are two examples, but these champions have abilities that allow them to escape, unlike Swain. You need to go toe to toe with the enemy champions and engage on top of them while dealing damage. There is no way out for you after you have gone in, and an opponent champion can counter this with the help of a Grievous Wounds item.

Swain’s Abilities Explained

Swain Ravenous Flock Passive Ability

Swain’s Passive Skill: Ravenous Flock

There are two parts to Swain’s passive, and both of them are very important. We will discuss both of them individually in this section of our Swain guide.


Swain can tear a soul fragment from a nearby immobilized enemy champion. When you click on an immobilized champion, Swain will drag them towards himself. If an opponent is directly on top of you, Ravenous will pull them the same distance in your direction. It could bring them behind you, so be careful while using this against melee champions like Tryndamere or Darius.

The most effective way to use this ability is to wait as long as you can. We have seen many Swain guides tell players to use Ravenous when an opponent champion is immobilized immediately, but we recommend you think about your decision first. You need to ask yourself two questions. “Will using Ravenous be of any use to my team right now?” and “How long should I wait before using it?”.

Using Swain's Passive Calls a Crow Back to Him

The answer to the first question is to assess why your allies used one of their crowd control abilities. There is no reason to bring the enemy closer to them if they want to escape, right?

The answer to the second question is to wait as long as you can. If they are immobilized for two seconds, and you immediately use your passive on them, then you fail to use your passive effectively. You want the opponent champions to be under crowd control influence for as long as possible so use your passive as soon as possible.


Whenever you contribute to a takedown on opponent champions, they leave a soul fragment behind. These soul fragments heal you for a portion of your maximum health and grants you bonus damage throughout the game.

This ability allows Swain to scale very well into the late game.

Swain Death Hands Ability

Q: Death Hands

Swain fires a series of eldritch bolts at his foes, piercing them. Each time an enemy is hit by a bolt, they receive more damage. Death Hands will be your primary damage output spell in team fights as it has the lowest cooldown among all. It will inflict more significant damage as you get closer to the enemy, but you can also use it as a poking tool in the lane.

Blasting enemies with lightning from his hands

A key thing to remember in lane is that the ability can pass through minions so you can catch the enemy champions by surprise.

We will talk about how you can combine Death Hands with other Swain abilities later in this Swain guide.

Vision of Empire Swain Ability

W: Vision of Empire

A summoned eye appears at a specified area and grants vision for 2 seconds. After a brief duration of time, it bursts, delivering damage from afar and slowing the enemy. A soul fragment will appear that you can collect. It allows you to scale constantly, and the more times you hit the enemy champions with your W, the more powerful you will be in the late game.

Vision of Empire also provides you with additional safety. You can use it from far away to see if any enemy champions are hiding there rather than face-check them yourself.

Nevermore Ability on Swain

E: Nevermore

Swain sends forth a wave that inflicts damage on all foes it encounters. The wave returns to him once it has traveled the maximum distance. The enemies it hits will get rooted for a short time. You can think of Nevermore as a hook that can pass through minions too.

Nevermore is your primary initiation tool and the building block of many combos discussed later in this Swain guide.

How to Play Swain Ultimate Demonic Ascension

R (Ultimate): Demonic Ascension

Swain evolves into a demon and exploits nearby enemy champions, minions, and neutral monsters to drain their health. Swain can recast the ability to unleash massive burst damage to demolish nearby opponents. This deals damage equivalent to a percentage of the health he drained earlier and ends his transformation.

The best way to use this ability is to activate it when a team fight has started. It will allow you to immediately put the opponents on the backfoot and take away their summoner spells. However, you need to be careful of enemy baiting out your ultimate, so only use it when you are sure it will be an intense team fight rather than a short skirmish.

Swain Rune Guide

As we previously discussed in this Swain guide, he is a very versatile champion that can be flexed in various lanes. That’s why we will have three rune pages for Swain for you. This will allow you to play as a tanky solo laner, a burst mage, or utility support.

Swain Runes for Top Lane

Swain Top Rune Sheet

This rune page will allow you more sustain than you can imagine. In the top lane, you will be up against champions that like to fight a lot, and with Grasp of the Undying and your passive stacks, you will consistently increase your health every time you engage in combat. It will make your laning phase a lot more comfortable than other rune pages but at the cost of more damage.

When you are playing Swain top, it will be your job to ensure that you use your ultimate for as long as possible in team fights, and this rune page will grant you that survivability.

Swain Runes for Mid-Lane

This page is the one that would make the life of the opponent miserable from the laning phase. You will do a lot more damage with the help of this rune page, as every single rune in here fits very well with your ability set. This Swain guide will teach you how to fully utilize your runes later when talking weaknesses about the laning phase as a mid laner.

Swain Mid Runes

Swain Runes for Support

This rune page takes away that tankiness and damage that the two previous pages provided you with. However, this gives you an insane amount of crowd control threat over your opponents. They will be scared to walk nearby when you are around, and you can punish them quickly if they overextend.

Runes for Support Swain

Swain in the support role is compelling, and it depends on what you are up against to determine your playstyle. We will talk about how you can control the lane effectively as Swain with this set of runes. We will also provide you some tips on how you can play the support role with the mid-lane runes page! That will come later in this Swain guide, so please stick with us until the end.

Swain Items Guide

There are so many different builds for Swain and depend on your role in the team composition. However, there are two items that you will always build on Swain: Zhonya’s Hourglass and Rabadon’s Deathcap. There is sound reasoning behind always opting for these two.

Zhonya’s will provide you with more sustainability combined with your ultimate because even in stasis, you will drain health from the enemy champions. Some players even take an extra stopwatch to tilt their enemies from the face of the earth. Deathcap helps you scale well into the late game, and it won’t be a wrong choice for even your second item as it would bolster your damage massively!

You can find more about Swain’s most practical items right now using our updated Swain build. We update our data regularly based on millions of recent LoL matches.

How to Play Swain as a Mid or Bottom Lane Carry

The difference between top lane Swain and mid/bot lane Swain is how you play the laning phase, and the team fights too! This section of our Swain guide will equip you with everything you need to play Swain like professional players.

Laning Phase Swain Guide for Mids and Bot Lane Carries

The way you play Swain in the laning phase in both of these lanes is pretty similar. You should always start safely and even let the enemy push if they are playing a ranged champion. It will allow you to not be under any threat of early ganks, and you can poke the enemy champions from a safe distance.

When you have leveled up three of your abilities, you will be in a position to play aggressively. Whenever an enemy champion looks to farm minions, hit them with an E followed by a W. This will take a considerable chunk out of their health. If you are playing in the bottom lane, your support can follow up immediately.

How to play swain in the mid lane

Level six is an enormous power spike for you, and you can even try for all-in on your opponent. You will be able to control the flow of any skirmishes and hence grant your team an early lead.

We highly recommend you to use your passive as many times as you can in the laning phase as this might result in the opponent using their flash or cleanse to escape. It will provide an excellent ganking opportunity for your jungler, and you can even look for a tower dive.

Playing Swain in the Later Game Phases of League of Legends

While many carries are efficient in playing in the side lanes and split push in the mid/late game, Swain isn’t one of them. You can play in the side lanes but have to be careful not to overextend and enter the enemy’s territory of the rift. A great way to counter this is to look for a freeze near your turrets, but it can be difficult considering how your abilities work.

If you are playing as the bottom lane carry, you can stick with your support throughout the rest of the game, and your preference should be the mid lane. It will grant you that extra bit of protection you need while also ensuring you can rotate quickly to different parts of the map if needed.

Swain with his dragons

Mid and Bot Swain Guide to Teamfights

You will be responsible for the team fight outcome when you are playing Swain as a carry. If you play your cards right, your team is guaranteed to come out on top. Before engaging in a team fight, an essential thing to remember is to ensure that you always have your ultimate and stopwatch ready to use.

The goal is to delay the team fights for as long as possible while poking the enemy champions from afar. It would ensure that every battle is on your terms, but we have a backup plan if the opponents find a good engagement. Use your ultimate immediately when the enemy champions get on top of you and start hitting them with your abilities before using your stopwatch. It will divert some attention away from your other teammates, and they can perform their duties until you come out of stasis.

If you see an enemy assassin trying to kill your other carries, immediately use your E and passive to pull them away from your allies.

How to Play Swain in the Top Lane

When you are playing Swain in the top lane, you will be much stronger from the first minute than playing in other lanes. It is because you will mostly be up against melee champions and can deal a lot of damage from long-range.

If you are up against ranged champions like Jayce or Quinn on the enemy team, you can pretty much play in the same style we told you earlier in this Swain guide. However, now is the time to teach you how to demolish melee champions in the top lane.

Champ Swain in LoL

How to Play Swain in the Laning Phase against Melee Champions

You are the worst nightmare of these melee bruisers, so act like that! Whenever you see these buffy champions come up to farm the minions, hit them with your E and W. They might get the minions but will lose a lot of health, but that’s not all you won with this trade. We previously told you to go for Grasp of the Undying, and now you just got free bonus health with this simple trade!

Ideally, you would want to hit the enemy champions with as many abilities as possible because it will stack up against your resources for the late game. However, we know it might not be possible due to you using your mana on minions. Instead, you can only use your Q for farming the minions while trying to hit them last whenever possible. It is challenging to pull off, so we advise you to practice this mechanic in the practice tool before heading into the ranked games.

Playing Swain Top Lane in the Mid Game and Late Game

You will be so tanky by now that the enemy champions will have to deal with you first before thinking about your backline. It’s your goal now to look for picks or team fights actively, so don’t be hesitant to roam around the rift on your own. Always look to stay near the current objectives on the Rift as you have insane objective control and can help your team secure them with the help of you taking the lead in skirmishes.

It won’t hurt you to split push considering you have Demolish in your inventory but be careful of any enemies coming your way. A great way to counter this is to always have a control ward in your stock and using your W to check if they are coming towards you.

How to Teamfight as Top Swain

The fundamental difference between top and mid/bot Swain is how tanky you are. This minor difference allows you to front line team fights more aggressively and even engage independently without your teammates nearby.

Swain Guide to Ulting in Teamfights

A top Swain should always aim to separate the enemy’s backline from their frontline with effective use of their W and E. If you have succeeded in this, you can immediately use your ultimate to get on top of whatever champions are nearby. Ideally, we want it to be the backline, but don’t hesitate to take away essential cooldowns from the frontline champions!

How to Play Swain as Support

We have previously discussed how effective Swain is as a laner in this Swain guide, but you will be surprised to learn that he is currently being played in the support role the most! It is due to how versatile his ability set is and how well Swain can play a role in different game stages with Swain.

Swain Guide to Laning as Support

So many Swain guides tell you to pick Q or W for your first ability, but we won’t go that route. We recommend you opt for your E because it essentially grants you not one but two powers! It is due to how well your passive works with your E, and you should always opt for it instead of less effective choices.

If you can land your E and passive attack on an enemy carry, you will force them to run away without a big chunk of their health. It will give you and your ADC so much control in the laning phase, and you will be able to play aggressively. However, be careful not to use this on the enemy support if they are a tanky engage champion like Leona or Thresh. You will be digging your own grave with that one.

How to use swain's abilities to pull enemies away from carries

The next thing is to clear the wave as fast as possible with your ADC instead of looking to poke the enemy champions. The first wave and the following three melee minions will give you level 2, and you have to try your best to get this before your opponents as this provide you a kill opportunity.

When you get your level 2, you need to level up your W and hit your opponent with an E. You have to follow up this E with your passive and W and then Ignite them. With this tactic, you will get a free kill nine out of ten times with this tactic, so always go for it!

You can play the rest of the lane doing the same thing but be careful of any hard engages as you will be vulnerable in such cases.

How to Play Swain in the Mid and Late Game as Support

To play Swain properly in the mid/late game, you must do two things: Roaming and Team Fighting. In the next section of this Swain guide, we will teach you more about team fighting and talk about roaming now.

You will be with your ADC for most of the game but have to be roaming too, so you can establish vision control over the Rift. There are three scenarios in which you should roam, and we will tell you about all three of them.

Swain with his support

The first scenario is when your ADC has enough survivability in their kit. You can think of an Ezreal with Arcane Shift or Caitlyn with her traps. It will allow you to move to other areas of the rift and plant your wards.

The second scenario is when your ADC is dead or has recalled. You can then move towards the riverside where the current objective is present and plant your wards. This will work very well with your W, and you won’t be under any threat of overextending.

The final scenario is when your jungler is invading a part of the map you are nearby to. This will allow them to take away the jungle camps, and you can plant wards simultaneously.

If you can follow these steps, you will be able to have great team fights.

Support Swain in LoL Team Fights

The difference between a carry Swain and support Swain in team fights is simple. You can’t frontline the team fights anymore. You should aim to stay with your carries and poke the enemy from afar as you will have items in your inventory that buffs up your allies. You should only use your ultimate when the enemy’s front line is very low, or the enemy champions are coming onto you and your ADC. Do your best to peel for your carry.

Great Swain Combos

1. All-In

When you reach level 6, you will have insane potential to eliminate your foe and improve your win rate. It will be a guaranteed kill if the opponent has yet to reach their level 6. You need to use your E followed up by a W before dragging your opponent towards you. While the opponent is in the process of coming towards you, cast your ultimate and then follow up with an auto-attack before using your Q on them.

You can attack them twice before recasting your ultimate to deal an insane amount of burst damage. This combo will most likely take them down, but even if they survive, you can use your ignite or follow them up with auto attacks until your cooldowns expire.

Summary: E > W > R > AA > Q > AA > AA > R

2. The Lane Trade

This combo will be your bread and butter in the laning phase. It is straightforward yet very effective. Whenever the enemy champion tries to farm a minion, hit them with your E and quickly follow that up with a W before using your auto attack on them. Please ensure that you use your W in the space between you and them, so they are hit by it when you drag them towards yourself.

Summary: E > W > AA > Q

Concluding Remarks on How to Play Swain

As you see, Swain is a very versatile champion that can fit into various roles in the game. If you learn how to play Swain properly, you will have a champion to play in whatever position you find yourself in and won’t need to dodge games excessively.

We hope this Swain guide helped you understand the fundamentals behind Swain, so you can not only climb the ranked ladder but have fun while doing it. If there is anything we missed or any feedback you would like to give us, please tell us below in the comments section.

Images Courtesy of Riot Games.