The Black Rose blooms in the darkest of cities. Green is not the color of growth but of venom. Red is not the color of love but of blood. Citizens die but Noxus endures, growing strong on the shed blood of her people and her enemies.
Champ Design Breakdown: Swain, the Master Tactician
Given that the United States just elected their worst leader of all time, I felt it was high time to take a look at a dictator from Runeterra. Swain is the Grand General of Noxus, and one of her most skilled battlefield commanders. Demacian armies quickly learned to fear his cunning, and Swain is well known as a master strategist throughout Valoran.
Does his tactical genius come through in game though? That’s what we’re about to answer.
I’ll give the orders
Swain is yet another champion whose origins are shrouded in mystery. He first appeared in the annals of history as a young boy limping into an infirmary with his leg nearly snapped in half and a raven riding his shoulder. After the bone was set, Swain simply requested a cane before walking away without further comment. He was gone for years, until suddenly he appeared as a ranking officer in the Noxian military.
Swain’s battlefield prowess earned him no small number of decorations and catapulted him through the ranks, until he eventually was shifted off active duty shortly before the Ionian campaign. It was a bewildering move, but Swain had earned himself no shortage of enemies - Keiran Darkwill himself opposed Swain’s rise, and the Du Couteau sisters had evidence to suggest that Swain was working with the Black Rose, and had a hand in their father’s disappearance.
Regardless of the controversy, Swain managed to eventually best Darkwill in a duel and rise to the position of Grand General, with the full support of the High Command behind him. Runeterra shudders to think of what a united Noxus could do with the Master Tactician at the helm.
His title and lore imply that Swain is a master of manipulating the flow of battle, so I’m assuming he’ll have largely ally-focused abilities - speed boosts and shields, perhaps. I’d also assume that Swain can weaken enemies, allowing his teammates to take advantage of their reduced state to win fights. Classwise, Swain should probably be an enchanter.
Oh who am I kidding? Let’s just morph and eat them
Swain’s title should have been “The Big Bird,” as he has one of the biggest gaps between his lore and his actual gameplay in the entire game. When you choose a champion renowned for his battlefield smarts, you are certainly not expecting a guy with raven-based powers who turns into a giant bird - but that’s what Swain is. He’s a bird-guy, not a tactician.
The least you can say for Swain is that his kit works fairly well within itself. Torment (E) and Nevermove (W) allow Swain to set up foes to take tons of damage from his other abilities, while Ravenous Flock ® keeps him alive in the middle of the fight. All of his abilities are also thematically bird-y and/or necrotic, which play up Swain’s “decay” motifs. However, there’s nothing in his kit that makes you think “tactician.” Torment could’ve fulfilled at least part of the fantasy by amplifying all damage done to target enemy, but the fact that it only amps Swain’s own damage is a slap in the face.
Even the way in which Swain uses his skills in-game don’t fit the bill for a strategist. If Swain was played more like a disruptor, limiting opponent’s options while enabling his allies, he could still make a case for being a tactician champion. However, he’s a battle mage - so his best playstyle is to run straight into the middle of the enemy team and hope that your ravens keep you alive. Feels more like a loose cannon than a tactician.
Ultimately, Swain isn’t a tactician champion. Hell, he even lampoons it with his joke, referencing a reduced need for tactics when you can just bird out and eat people. I’m not really sure what drove Riot to give a decay-themed champion the title of “Master Tactician,” but it’s certainly an inaccurate one. It’s also unlikely to change in the near future, given that Swain received a kit rework that did little to fix his thematic inconsistencies. We’ll just have to settle for the Birdman of Noxus.
Final Grade: F. Not even close to their theme.
Disagree with my assessment of Swain? Or have you got a different champion you’d like me to analyze? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to like and reblog this post if you enjoyed it!