Hello, Agigas here! I am a Master player since beta with several #4 peaks and tournament wins. I love sharing my knowledge about the game and I have been a regular writer at RuneterraCCG. I write in-depth deck guides, articles for tournament players, and curate our constantly updated Meta Tier List.
This guide is dedicated to Swain TF – a midrange deck with lots of control tools that has been on the rise recently as a response to the dominance of Zed Lulu Elusives.
Swain TF is a midrange archetype, combining Noxus and Bilgewater to get access to very cost-efficient removals.
Ravenous Flock, Make it Rain, and Monster Harpoon all deal very high amounts of damage for their cost, making it very hard for the opponent to out-tempo us with board pressure. Death’s Hand creates less of a tempo advantage but has good synergy with Swain. Scorched Earth rounds up this package to remove a large unit or a landmark.
Twisted Fate is another tool in our removal suite, with both his Red Card and Gold Card. When you don’t need those extra removals, Blue Card is very helpful to cycle through your deck. While the deck uses Twisted Fate more as a value unit than as a win condition, it can happen that we would level him up thanks to our surprisingly high amount of draw.
To make all our removals even more threatening, Dreadway Deckhand gets us a Powder Keg on top of a 2/2 body. The Keg combines particularly well with AOE and multi-target effects, such as Twisted Fate’s Red Card, or Make it Rain.
Arachnoid Sentry serves as a great enabler for Ravenous Flock, but can also be used to punish the opponent for not open-attacking, or to create a stronger attack for ourselves.
The Leviathan and Swain act as the finishers of the deck. These two will surely win you the game when on the board together and uncontested, but you often don’t need to have both of them stick to close things out.
Judging just by the amount of removal tools and value, Swain TF looks like a very control-oriented archetype. However, be aware that this deck can also push a lot of face damage.
With Crusty Codger, you can get very early onto the board. Make it Rain, Death’s Hand, and TF’s Red Card will all deal incidental face damage. A hit from an early Swain can greatly accelerate the game.
Depending on the matchup and situation, Swain TF is able to go for more aggressive routes. I personally consider Swain TF to be a midrange/control archetype (like Ezreal Draven, for example) rather than a true control deck.
Techs and Options
- House Spider is a great anti-aggro card, often trading 2-for-1 in those matchups. It also can help create early pressure, or damage a unit to set up for a Ravenous Flock. Overall, it is quite popular and useful card for Swain TF archetype. Consider swapping some copies of Whispered Words for it if you need more tempo.
- Noxian Guillotine is similar to Scorched Earth, and it has good synergy with Make it Rain and TF’s Red Card. Consider replacing Scorched Earth with it if you don’t need a landmark removal. You can also add more Guillotine/Scorched Earth if you often need to remove very large units.
- Noxian Fervor quickly levels up Swain, synergizes really well with Powder Kegs, and gives you more reach to finish games. It is a strong spell if you need some more aggressive tempo.
- Riptide Rex is a strong turn 8 play, easily enabled by Make it Rain, Death’s Hand, or The Leviathan. You can add one to the deck if you need more late game powerplays.
- Be careful about your Leviathan timing. Playing The Leviathan when you are in a precarious board state can open you up and give your opponent an opportunity to go wide and push a lot of damage. Sometimes, it is better to be patient, delay your Leviathan for a turn (especially if they could remove it) and use your turn 8 to clear the opponent’s threats instead.
- Set up your Flocks. With Ravenous Flock,
Swain’s Ravenous Flock, and Leviathan to tutor it, you’re likely to see a lot of Flocks during a game. Carefully manage your enablers, such as Make it Rain or Arachnoid Sentry, to make sure your Ravenous Flocks can always do some work.
- You will almost never be able to play Monster Harpoon for 3 mana during an open-attack. While Swain TF has good amount of ways to activate Plunder, it can’t do it at Burst speed. Therefore, you can’t usually cast Harpoon for cheap during yours or your opponent’s open-attack (the only exception is if you have a Leviathan on the board). Instead of holding onto your Monster Harpoons, consider using them end-of-turn when you’ve already triggered Plunder, even though it can be counter-intuitive.
- Create pressure with Swain. Swain really shines later in the game when you have a lot of spells to remove or stun units, and when you also have a Leviathan on board. However, early on his Fearsome keyword can also enable him to push a lot of damage. This pressure can also force the opponent to block him with one of their key units.
- Keep track of the number of Swains still in your deck. Playing The Leviathan when you have no Swains left in your deck is a big loss of value. If you have
Swain’s Ravenous Flockin hand, look to cast it before playing a Leviathan to shuffle another Swain into your deck.
General mulligan tips:
- Crusty Codger and Dreadway Deckhand are both generally good keeps to create yourself a board early into the game. Fortune Croaker is also a great keep when you have one of either Codger or Deckhand.
- Keep the removals that are best/most needed for your matchup. Make it Rain and Twisted Fate are key cards against board flood strategies. Ravenous Flock is great at removing a key units. If you keep Ravenous Flock, also look to keep an activator, such as Arachnoid Sentry.
- Swain is generally a keep. He offers some great pressure early into the game, and has a solid statline.
Be aware that these are just the general guidelines to help you understand the deck’s gameplan. Mulligans are very matchup-dependant – please refer to the matchup section below for more specific advice on mulligans against different meta decks.
Mulligan for: Crusty Codger, Dreadway Deckhand, Arachnoid Sentry, Ravenous Flock, Make it Rain. Keep Monter Harpoon or Swain if you have a great hand.
- Lulu Zed is a very aggressive deck with a lot of high-pressure units, such as Zed, Lulu, and Elusives. It runs Rallies and buffs to back them up. With our cost-efficent removals, we can deal with their fragile units and run them out of value.
- Make it Rain has a great value thans to their numerous 1-health units. Greenglade Duo is a particularly valuable one.
- Be aware some versions play a copy of Ranger’s Resolve.
- Ravenous Flock is perfectly suited to finish a unit after they’ve protected it from another spell. Its cheap cost will make it very hard for them to further save their unit.
- They are very bad at interaction. They have no removals in their deck, with only Fleetfeather Tracker for that purpose (with a buff if needed). In general, their approach is to force you to block to survive their hyper-aggression.
- Arachnoid Sentry’s stun is very valuable, either to activate your Ravenous Flock, or simply to slow down their attacks. It is especially powerful when as a response to Zed on turn 3, or to a Rally.
- If you don’t give them a good window to use Rallies, those will often get stuck in their hand. Be aware that if a game is going long and they have some cards stuck in their hand, they’re likely to be Rally effects.
Mulligan for: Crusty Codger, Dreadway Deckhand, Twisted Fate, Make it Rain. Keep Arachnoid Sentry, Swain, Monster Harpoon if you have a good hand. Keep Ravenous Flock if you have a good activator.
- Discard Aggro is a deck looking to flood the board thanks to cheap units and Discard synergies. With Arena Battlecaster, Vision, and Crowd Favorite as payoffs, it can rapidly end games. Later on, Jinx and Augmented Experimenter give the deck more reach.
- With their high amount of draw and burn spells they have quite a lot of reach. You have no helaing or counters, so be conservative with your Nexus health.
- With your cost-eficient removals, you can limit their board. Make it Rain is particularly efficient against their numerous 1-health units.
- Starting on turn 4, look to remove their unit before they get to play a big Crowd Favorite.
- Ravenous Flock and Monster Harpoon are great answers to Jinx (who must be removed as soon as she is leveled), Draven, or a large Crowd Favorite.
- To interact with you, they can use Get Excited!, Augmented Experimenter’s ability Reckless Research, or
Draven’s Whirling Deathif they already have a Draven on board. They can’t easily deal with a Swain or Leviathan.
- Be aware some versions play 1-3 copies of Survival Skills.
Mulligan for: Arachnoid Sentry, Twisted Fate, Ravenous Flock, Make it Rain, Death’s Hand, Monster Harpoon.
- Jarvan Shen is a midrange Demacia deck, looking to play units that produce value and back them up with Barriers and buff spells.
- Because a lot of their value and power comes through combat, stuns such as Twisted Fate and Arachnoid Sentry are particularly good at slowing them down.
- Your numerous removals matchup really great against them. If you can run them out of key units, they will struggle to create board synergies and at making good use of their tricks.
- Ravenous Flock is a key card to finish a unit right after they tried to protect it.
- Make it Rain allows you to get rid of their barriers for cheap.
- When it comes to board combat, however, they are often dominating. Try to force trade with your units when you can, your units are a lot less valuable than theirs.
- Be very careful to not suicide your Swain into their Jarvan IV. If you play Swain on turn 5 and they challenge him on turn 6 with Jarvan you’ll lose a lot of tempo and value.
- Their removals, Single Combat and Concerted Strike, are reliant on their units.
- Some version of this archetype cut Jarvan IV for Fiora.
Mulligan for: Crusty Codger, Deadway Deckhand, Fortune Croaker. Keep Arachnoid Sentry if you have a good early curve, or if you have Ravenous Flock. Keep Swain if you have a great early hand.
- Pirate Burn is a very aggressive archetype, looking to create pressure with early units, and then finishing with burn spells. You have no life gain or counterspells, so you need to be very conservative with your Nexus health.
- Playing a Fortune Croaker even with no other units on the board and without triggering its draw effect is perfectly fine if it can save you some Nexus health points.
- Avoid having a board with a lot of 1-health units, or you’ll likely be punished by their Miss Fortune or Make it Rain.
- Later into the game, Gangplank becomes a key threat, especially if he levels up.
- Try preventing them to spread out their damage over different turns.
- A level 1 Gangplank can be very efficiently dealt with by a Monster Harpoon. Once level 2, you’ll need to combine spells.
- Once you get control over the board, try to finish as quickly as possible, so they don’t get more time to find and play more burn spells.
- Removals can save your Nexus health against Imperial Demolitionist or Noxian Fervor.
Mulligan for: Crusty Codger, Dreadway Deckhand, Fortune Croaker, Swain, Ravenous Flock, Make it Rain, Scorched Earth, Monster Harpoon. Keep Arachnoid Sentry if you have Ravenous Flock.
- Azir Irelia is an aggressive deck, combining Blades and Sand Soldiers to push a lot of damage. A lot of its power comes through it engines and payoffs, such as Azir, Emperor’s Dais, Irelia, Sparring Student, and Greenglade Duo.
- Azir is their most important engine, as he will greatly accelerate their aggression. Try to remove him with a Ravenous Flock or a Monster Harpoon.
- Optimize the number of damage you block with your board.
- Don’t block Blades, block Sand Soldiers.
- Block with your units until they have 1 health point left. Then, avoid blocking with them and use them to attack, until you can block something bigger than a 1/1 Sand Soldier – a buffed 2/1 Sand Soldier or another unit.
- Their interaction comes in the the form of recall spells, often Homecoming and Defiant Dance.
- Use Make it Rain to remove Greenglade Duo and Sparring Student. Playing it as the first action of your turn will allow you to remove Sparring Student before he gets buffed.
- They can protect a unit with Lead and Follow, Shaped Stone, or Twin Disciplines.
Mulligan for: Crusty Codger, Dreadway Deckhand, Fortune Croaker, Swain.
- Ezreal Karma is a control deck, looking to stall the game with removals, stuns and recals, and Eye of the Dragon. In the late game, they become extremely powerful with Karma, and can quickly finish games with Ezreal and/or burn spells. In this matchup, you’ll generally be the aggressor.
- Swain and Leviathan are your most important threats, and despite coming down rather late into the game, they will greatly accelerate it.
- With their high health total, it’s hard or the opponent to kill them. Their only spell that can do it on its own is Thermogenic Beam, avoid playing too much into it. They can also recall or stun them.
- Swain, thanks to his Fearsome keyword, is almost unblockable in this matchup – their only 3+ attack unit is Karma, and they don’t play buff spells.
- Ezreal and Karma must be removed as soon as they hit the board.
Mulligan for: Crusty Codger, Dreadway Deckhand, Arachnoid Sentry, Twisted Fate, Ravenous Flock, Make it Rain, Monster Harpoon. Keep Fortune Croaker if you have Crusty Codger or Dreadway Deckhand. Keep Zap if you have a good early hand.
- Sivir Ionia is an aggro/combo deck, creating a lot of pressure thanks to Quick Attack champions and their synergy with the Vulnerable keyword and Flurry of Fists. Spellshield on Sivir and Ruin Runner makes them harder to interact with, and they’re perfect target for their numerous buffs.
- This matchup heavely depends on whether or not you can cleanly remove Sivir and Ruin Runner. If you are able to, they will be stuck with low value units and buff spells.
- Use cheap effects, such as Make it Rain, Arachnoid Sentry’s stun, or TF’s Red Card, to remove Spellshield. Afterward, you’ll be able to get rid of Sivir and Ruin Runner with Ravenous Flock or Monster Harpoon.
- Zap Sprayfin, as long as he doesn’t get tagged with a Vulnerable keyword, can be key to prevent them from killing you with the Sivir + Ghost + Flurry of Fists combo.
- It’s very hard for them to interact outside of the combat phase. They have no removal spells, and they get rid of units with the help of the Vulnerable keyword instead. Their only fast speed interaction, outside of buff spells, is Concussive Palm. If you assemble the Swain Leviathan combo during your turn, you’ll be in a very good spot.
Mulligan for: Crusty Codger, Dreadway Deckhand, Arachnoid Sentry, Twisted Fate, Ravenous Flock, Make it Rain.
- Lurk is an aggressive midrange archetype, growing its units’ attack stats continuosly throughout the game. Their cheap units are fragile but dangerous threats, and their bigger Lurkers serve as great finishers thanks to the Overwhelm keyword. Pyke is the key unit in the deck, creating very strong tempo plays through
Death from Below, and threatening his powerful level-up.
- Trade as much as possible with their units. If you can clear their board and prevent an attack, they’ll lose a lot of value and aggressiveness from their Lurk procs. Sometimes they can also stumble in the early game themselves, as Lurk can be quite inconsistent.
- Arachnoid Sentry’s stun effect is very powerful to slow down their attacks, and is a great counter to Rek’Sai.
- Because their units’ attack get very high, Swain and Leviathan’s high health is often not enough fro them to survive. Vulnerable keyword,
Death from Below, Bone Skewer, and Jaull-fish will often be deadly. Try to hold onto them, play with your smaller units and removals instead, and use Swain and Leviathan as finisher once you are in control of the game.
Mulligan for: Crusty Codger, Dreadway Deckhand, Fortune Croaker, Swain. Keep Monster Harpoon or Ravenous Flock if you have a great early hand.
- Gangplank Sejuani is a midrange Bilgewater Allegiance deck, looking to leverage Plunder synergies and using Gangplank and Sejuani‘s level-ups as their ultimate payoff.
- Prevent them from dealing damage to your Nexus so they miss Plunder triggers and slow down the leve-ups of their champions. The have a ton of face damage too, so you can also get dangerously low if you’re not careful enough.
- They can easily remove low health units with Make it Rain, Ice Shard, and Parrrley. Combining those with Powder Kegs and/or The Dreadway allow them to remove slightly bigger units. On the other hand, they struggle to deal with large units, such as Swain and The Leviathan. Their biggest removal is Monster Harpoon.
- Keep removals to deal with their key threats – Gangplank, Sejuani, and The Dreadway. Monster Harpoon is particularly effective against a level 1 Gangplank.
- Arachnoid Sentry’s stun can be very effective to prevent Sejuani from challenging your unit, or to prevent Gangplank from using his level 2 ability Powderful Explosion.
- They can steal cards from you with Black Market Merchant and Yordle Grifter. Keep track of stolen cards in their hand to know what you need to play around.
Mulligan for: Crusty Codger, Dreadway Deckhand, Arachnoid Sentry, Twisted Fate, Swain, Make it Rain. Keep Ravenous Flock if you have an activator.
- Ezreal Draven is, similarly to Swain TF, a midrange control deck using cost-effective removal such as Ravenous Flock to control the board. This deck is able to push damage with early units, and finishes with Ezreal, Captain Farron, and burn spells. While both decks gameplans are comparable, Ezreal Draven has the advantage thanks to Tri-beam Improbulator and more reliable burn damage.
- Avoid taking early damage from their units. The lower your Nexus health is, the easier for them it will be to finish with burn damage.
- It’s easy for them to deal small amounts of damage with Mystic Shot, Get Excited!, or Statikk Shock, or to finish a damaged unit with Ravenous Flock or Scorched Earth. However, they struggle to deal with a large undamaged unit at Fast speed. Their answers to large units either require the unit to be damaged, or are Slow speed (Thermogenic Beam, Tri-beam Improbulator).
- Be ready to remove Ezreal as soon as he hits the board, especially once he is level 2. A leveled Ezreal, combined with their numerous burn spells, will kill you extremely fast.
- While you usually can match them in the early game, the problem often comes when they remove a Swain or Leviathan with a stacked Tri-beam Improbulator. However, if they don’t have stacked Tribeams, you have a very good shot in the matchup, as they’ll often run out of good removals for your large threats.
Swain TF, with its numerous cost-efficient removals, currently has a great matchup table in the meta. Despite being under-represented on the ladder, it is certainly a very competitive deck and is much more popular in tournaments.
If you want a deck that has a dominant matchup against Lulu Zed while also having a good shot against pretty much any meta deck currently, Swain TF is an awesome choice.
If you have a question, want to share feedback, or discuss this guide, I’ll be happy to answer you in the comments below! 😉
If you like my content and don’t want to miss out on anything, you can follow me on Twitter, where I share every article I write, but also my tournament performances, my most successful decks, etc… 😄
Thanks for reading!