For the first time in Season 12 Swain is finally viable. Riot has finally delivered the promised Swain update, and it's better than we could've expected. If you are a fan of the Master Tactician, it's your time to shine. Especially with the durability update in patch 12.10 coming soon, things are looking up for our favorite bird man.
Swain has had a rough history as far as balance goes. Over the past few years Riot has been going through and updating any out of date champions. Swain was first reworked 4 years ago where he received a complete visual update and massive gameplay changes. Since then it has been nothing but a rocky road for Swain. Constantly fluctuating between a Midlane battlemage and a Support lane bully.
Having gone through several iterations of his Ultimate, Riot took a step back and took a lot of time to consider the best way to balance Swain. With the LoL Patch 12.8 changes it appears as though Riot has hit a home run. Swain now delivers on his demonic ascension raid-boss fantasy that is really fun to play, while still being well balanced and not oppressive to play against.
- You want more content like this? Check us out at Riftfeed!
Before we get started on how to play Swain, let's check out what actually changed:
LoL Patch 12.8 Swain Changes.
- Base armor increased from 23 to 26.
- Base movement speed increased from 325 to 330.
Passive - Ravenous Flock
- Healing from Soul Fragments: 4/5.5/7% of maximum health increased to 4/5.5/7%/9% of maximum health (at levels 1/6/11/16)
- Maximum health increase per soul fragment increased from 5 to 12
- (Removed) Pull-E Mechanisms: Swain can no longer use Passive – Ravenous Flock to pull and rip out Soul Fragments from immobilized enemies (see E – Nevermove)
Q - Death's Hand
- Damage increased from 55/75/95/115/135 (+40% AP) to 60/80/100/120/140 (+38% AP)
- Bonus damage per additional bold increased from 8.25/15/23.75/34.5/47.25 (+6/8/10/12/14% AP) to 12/22/32/42/52 (+8% AP)
- Maximum damage (5 bolts) increased from 88/135/190/253/324 (+64/72/80/88/96% AP) to 108/168/228/288/348 (+70% AP)
- Cooldown decreased from 9/7.5/6/4.5/3 to 7/6/5/4/3 seconds
- Mana cost decreased from 65/70/75/80/85 to 45/50/55/60/65
W - Vision of Empire
- Mana cost decreased from 70/80/90/100/110 to 60/65/70/75/80
- (New) Vantage Advantage: Pinging W – Vision of Empire now displays a list of visible enemies within range in team chat (similar to Twisted Fate and Nocturne ults)
E - Nevermove
- (New) Pitiful Pawns: Can now be recast to pull all champions rooted by E – Nevermove, ripping out 1 Soul Fragment from each of them
- (Removed) Silent Sacrifice: Swain’s pulls no longer deal damage
- (New) A True Visionary: Now grants vision of all rooted targets
- (New) Demon Discount: E – Nevermove’s cooldown is reduced by 20% during R – Demonic Ascension
R - Demonic Ascension
- Cooldown decreased from 120 to 100/80/60 seconds
- Drain damage per second decreased from 35/50/65 (+14% AP) to 20/40/60 (+10% AP)
- Drain heal per second increased from 20/35/40 (+16% AP) to 15/40/65 (+25%)
- (Removed) Big Birb: No longer grants Swain 125/200/275 bonus health while active
- (Removed) Two Birds One Soul: No longer doubles the health gained from Soul Fragments while active
- (Removed) Active duration no longer 12 seconds, will be based on Demon Power
- (Updated) Demon Power: Activating Demonic Ascension grants Swain 50 Demon Power, which decreases at an initial rate of 10 per second. After 5 seconds of Demonic Ascension, Swain’s Demon Power decreases faster at a rate of 15 per second
- (New) Soul Stealer: Swain gains 20 Demon Power per second while draining enemy champions
- Updated) Big Demon Energy: After 2 seconds of Demonic Ascension, Swain can recast his ultimate as R – Demonflare. R – Demonflare can only be cast once and does not end Demonic Ascension
R - Demonflare
- Damage increased from 100/150/200 (+50% AP) to 150/225/300 (+60% AP)
- (New) Conflagration: Demonflare now slows enemies by 60%, decaying over 1.5 seconds
- (Removed) Expended, not stored: Demonflare no longer deals additional damage based on health drained from enemies
Wow, that's a lot of changes to go through! But we've spent some time workshopping the best way to utilize these changes, and we're pretty confident we've figured out how Riot intended new Swain to played.
In his previous state, Swain was a noob killer of sorts. Punishing players not accustomed to his unique E hitbox, Swain would snowball games in low ELO, and having extremely low impact everywhere else. In his current state, Swain becomes a teamfight monster, that when left unchecked will dominate the mid-late game and turn into a Raid Boss straight out of World of Warcraft.
How to actually play the New Swain.
The biggest thing to notice about 12.8 Swain, is that he is effectively been removed from support back into Midlane/Toplane. Because his pull is gated behind landing his E instead of just a teammates CC, his duo synergy has gone drown dramatically. This in tandem with lower damage and more dependency on mana means Swain doesn't function very well in the Support role anymore.
Swain's new identity is essentially a Battle Mage/Drain Tank who gets stronger the longer a fight lasts. This is primarily because Riot nerfed Swain's damage across the board, but they buffed his sustain and his cooldowns by a lot. Essentially, Swain has a lot less burst damage, and a lot more sustain damage and sustain healing. This changes Swain's champion identity in a good way.
To help accentuate this new playstyle Swain should be building AP Bruiser items instead of mage items. Rather than Liandries which is really popular on Swain right now, Items like Riftmaker, Everfrost, Frostfire Gauntlet, and Moonstone are more viable. (Yes I said Moonstone, and not on support Swain either.)
How to Build Swain:
Swain has moved away from a burst mage entirely, he is now a battle mage with drain tank functionalities. This means that apart from his mana problems, mana mythics like Liandries and Luden's aren't as good anymore. Even if you're taking manaflow band and presence of mind, Swain still struggles to clear waves and still teamfight. This means his gold income plummets at the time teamfight's start happening. This along with the fact that Swain needs health from his items to survive means that Riftmaker is far and above the best mythic for Swain right now. Start tear, and build Riftmaker first item before finishing Seraph's second item. These items together give you enough sustain and damage to dominate every fight in the mid game. If you're toplane then Frostfire Gauntlet is also viable with Fimbulwinter second for a more tanky approach. If you feel like your team has enough magic damage and you need some utility, Everfrost and Moonstone are both viable options, but not as good as Riftmaker most games.
After you have your mythic item and at least a tear you can work on Rylai's, Demonic, or Zhonya's. Cosmic Drive is also viable but only if you don't intend on upgrading tear into Seraphs. The extra CDR isn't as effective anymore so it's not good to have both.
Swain loses to champions that fulfill 2 requirements.
- They out damage his sustain.
- They out damage him fast enough to kill him before he kills them.
If this is the case then Swain should consider building items that help mitigate this. Against magic damage threats Force of Nature is extremely strong, as the flat magic damage mitigation is really effective when paired with how much sustain Swain has, the item gets even better when you realize it gives 10% ms as well. Against physical damage threats, Frozen Heart, Randuins Omen and Zhonya's tend to help a lot. Frozen heart can replace Seraph's or Fimbulwinter in a build as it gives mana, so this item tends to have a leg up on the other armor options.
Runes and Summoner Spells:
To compliment Swain's more battle mage style take Conqueror for the increased in-combat damage and healing. Legend Tenacity and Last Stand also pair well. The Sorcery and Domination trees both offer good runes for Swain, but I find Inspiration to be best. Specifically for Minion Dematerializer. Perfect Timing and Approach Velocity are also good, but Minion Dematerializer is really strong for letting Swain waveclear and have a decent income.
Swain's ult can last as long as people remain inside the range. After a few seconds of draining no one Swain's ult will end. In his current state, Swain is incredibly reliant on his ultimate to be effective. So items like Rylai's and Everfrost help keep enemies in range so that you can get the maximum value out of it. This also means that Ghost and Flash are the best summoner spells for Swain.
Swain get's a lot of value out of his passive stacks since the changes. So landing E is going to be an important skill to learn. To take it a step further when you land E, press W where the pull will take them rather than where they are, so that you can get two stacks at once.
Swain likes his enemies nice and close, because it enables him to hit max damage Q's and connect his E easier. Keep in mind while playing Swain, that a big chunk of your sustain comes from triumph/passive stacks. Meaning that landing E or W on multiple people can result in a 40% max hp heal, it also means that kills will result in a 10% max hp heal as well, so saving R2 and Q to burst someone down for a kill can be a good way to use R2.
Once you have Riftmaker and Seraph's online, casting spells will heal you naturally. So while teamfighting, try to not leave your buttons off cooldown. If you're struggling to land E in teamfights, use R2 to slow them beforehand to make landing it easier.
In general Swain wants to be in the center of as many people as possible so that he can maximize the healing from his ult. Learning to balance your positioning to maximize healing without being too far forward is a big part of Swain. From there just managing your EW combo with R2 to catch out key targets in fights is the other important thing to keep in mind. Once you've figured out some of these basics, you can enjoy being a 1v9 Raidboss Thanos Cosplay. You can also enjoy your LP as well I guess...
If you enjoyed this article make sure to check out the one for Taliyah as well!