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Swain guide: Wrapping your mind around the Noxian general

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Swain is back, but this time he left Beatrice at home. ;(

Swain, The Noxian Grand General, is our first rework of 2018. From crusty old man to ‘Definetly not Tywin Lannister,’ Swain is back to add another voice to the close-range, lifesteal mage.

The Swain rework doesn’t feel like the Swain of old. To those of us who didn’t totally hate Swain, this might sound disappointing. Instead, new Swain is a beautiful realization of what this character always should have been. Alone, his abilities feel fairly simple. But when put together. Swain is a force to be reckoned with.

So let’s take a look at what he can do.

The Kit

Passive - Ravenous Flock

Riot Games

Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What it does:

Swain has multiple ways to absorb and hold on to Soul Fragments, currency he’ll use for his ultimate. When a champion dies, they release one and Swain’s birds collect it for him. However, the main way for Swain to receive Soul Fragments is by right clicking a CC’d enemy. Doing so will deal additional damage and pull them toward Swain.

This is a very passive ... uh ... passive. Basically, it’s an extra form of damage you get to apply whenever anyone on your team hit their CC. This of course means that Swain pairs great with any and all champions who have big CC that they can drop on anyone at anytime. Just keep a watchful eye out for abilities that lock the enemy down. Finally, while the jerk toward Swain isn’t particularly drastic, be sure not to pull an enemy out of an ally’s follow up damage.

Q - Death’s Hand

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Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What it does:

Swain extends his demonic arm, shooting five prongs of lighting from his fingers. If these shots hit a target, that target will absorb the blast and take damage. However, Death’s Hand continues past and through units that it kills. The more bolts Swain hits, the more damage he does.

This ability is a little hard to wrap your mind around. The animation looks strange and it seems a little unwieldy. In truth, it’s very mathematical. Think of it like a lightning shotgun that Swain shoots from his hand. It’ll deal damage in a small cone in front of him but that’s it.

This is your main tool for trading and pushing. It also has a very short cooldown, making it versatile. Spamming Death’s Hand is a great way to spend all of your mana extremely quickly. Learning how and when to cast is part of Swain’s learning curve. That being said, when you are dueling, you want to get close. The closer you are, the more shots will hit and the more damage you’ll do.

Keep this in mind and stare your enemies down as you make them succumb to your will.

W - Vision of Empire

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Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What it does:

Vision of Empire has a very large range. Swain casts a small area, granting him vision. A short time later, this area explodes, slowing any targets hit and dealing damage. For every target Swain hits with Vision of Empire, he gains a Soul Fragment.

Vision of Empire is a weird ability and is pretty situational. It works great as an execute but should also be used in lane to keep your enemies on their toes. The cooldown may be long, but Vision of Empire can be used in tons of ways. Long range vision, poke, Soul Fragment generation, extra damage on top of CC and even more. Things may seem limited at first, but as you grow in experience on Swain, you’ll find more reasons to use this tool.

This ability hurts and people will naturally want to try and avoid it. Use this to your advantage and position Vision of Empire in such a way that you’re opponent must choose between that damage and ...

E - Nevermove

Riot Games

Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What it does:

Swain hurls a burst of energy forward, dealing damage to each enemy it passes through. Once the energy reaches its maximum distance, a fist forms and moves back toward Swain. If the fist hits an enemy, it’ll deal damage and root them for a short period of time.

This is Swain’s main dueling tool. Tossing this through the wave is a great way to keep your enemies on their toes. This effectively makes farming behind the minion wave impossible against Swain. Throw these out like Ahri charms and go fishing for enemies.

If you manage to hit a foe, you can deal some serious damage. Your passive, Ravenous Flock, will automatically kick in. All you need to do is right click the enemy to steal their soul. Pulling the enemy toward you allows you to make even better use of Death’s Hand.

This is your main combo starter. In lane or in any duel, you want to hit Nevermove, use Ravenous Flock, throw out Death’s Hand and begin your ultimate transformation.

R - Demonic Ascension

Riot Games

Riot’s Tooltip:

Surrender@20

What it does:

Demonic Ascension’s tooltip makes it look scary and complicated. It’s neither. If Swain has at least one Soul Fragment, he’s able to transform his body into a floating bird of doom. In this form, he can cast all of his other abilities normally. However, around him, in an aura, he will begin sucking the life from his foes. Once he’s claimed enough HP for himself, he can detonate an explosion around him. The damage from this explosion is determined by how many Soul Fragments Swain was able to consume.

This is essentially Swain’s old ultimate, just less bad. Swain is able to enter a hyper lifesteal form for a short period, not forever. This means that he can’t be an eternal tank, but also allows him to build something other than mana.

Swain is a teamfighting champion and this is his teamfighting ultimate. As long as you’re able to get one Soul Fragment from a dead or CC’d champion, pop this a few seconds after a fight starts. While you aren’t invulnerable, you certainly are healing for quite a bit in this mode. Use this as your opportunity to strike. Take this chance to deal as much damage as you possibly can. Once the effect is over, be sure to position yourself as close to as many enemies as possible. You will then explode, dealing massive damage.

This is one of those abilities that’ll simply take time. If you don’t have a feeling for how much damage your burst can do, you’ll fail to use this ability properly. If you overestimate the healing, you’ll fail to use this ability properly. You have to learn and gain experience.

Once you’ve been killed by an an enemy Swain’s Demonic Ascension a few times or subsequently killed others with it on your own, you should be able to wrap your head around this ultimate.

The Runes

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Keystone: Arcane Comet

Swain has very high burst damage with his Q, but it’s relatively short range. Arcane Comet adds a powerful follow up to your CC and your in lane poke. You’re also able to take advantage of it frequently thanks to the long range of your W.

Manaflow Band

Swain is a caster in a pretty traditional sense. His Q is on a relatively short cooldown but is fairly expensive. Being able to mitigate that cost every now and then is extremely helpful.

Transcendence

Swain is all about casting often, attempting to win duels before he gets kicked into the dirt. Being able to cast quick is key to his survival. Transcendence helps with that and allows you to build as much CDR as you want.

Gathering Storm

Swain is a mid to late game mage. Chances are, you won’t win a game with Swain unless it hits 30 minutes or so, baring disaster. To help increase your chances of winning that late game, Gathering Storm will just pile on the free AP.

Secondary tree: Domination

Domination allows Swain to stay alive and deal a little extra damage to stunned targets.

Cheap Shot

Swain’s entire passive revolves around hitting enemies who’ve been CC’d. This one kinda just feels like a freebie.

Ravenous Hunter

Swain is a lifesteal mage, just like he was before. Adding even more lifesteal into his kit makes him that much more problematic to deal with.

The Build

Lane Start:

  • Doran’s Ring
  • Potions

Boots:

  • Sorcerer's Shoes

Build:

  • Morellonomicon
  • Hextech Protobelt-01
  • Liandry’s Torment
  • Rylai’s Crystal Scepter
  • Zhonya’s Hourglass

Conclusion

Swain is a bird of a different color. He used to be a lifesteal mage who barely interacted with the game in front of him. He set down traps, he set down a bird, he walked away from the fight or he waded into it. New Swain is different. He encompasses the same spirit, but with the power of a modern day mid laner.

It’s hard not to look at Swain and see someone who is at least reminiscent of Vladimir, the other prominent lifesteal mage. But Vlad still feels a little old and, at his worst, a little unfair. Swain manages to bring big damage to fights, lots of lifesteal and fun interactions. He’s a joy to lane as, despite his short range and difficult to use skills. He’s fun to lane against, despite his surprising damage and lifesteal.

Swain houses a bunch of seemingly frustrating mechanics in a fun to play against body. Even better, he goes far past so many other reworks. Warwick was cool because they kept the spirit of the wolf and rebuilt part of his old kit. With Swain, they took away everything and left him with nothing but the personality. Everything else feels fresh and feels new. And yet, more than anything, it just feels like Swain.