Varus Build Guide by Maizrim
Not Updated For Current Season
This guide has not yet been updated for the current season. Please keep this in mind while reading. You can see the most recently updated guides on the browse guides page.
Not Updated For Current Season
The masteries shown here are not yet updated for the current season, the guide author needs to set up the new masteries. As such, they will be different than the masteries you see in-game.
Hi, my name is Maizrim, I'm a Gold III player who enjoys playing new and interesting things. My most recent project has been playing AP Varus in the mid lane. I've had some good success with this build, and after more practice and fine tuning, I'll take it into ranked for further testing. I'm really looking for feedback and discussion, so please comment if you have any questions or suggestions.
Why play AP Varus?
At this point you've clicked the guide and are somewhat intrigued. You may be wondering,
"Why play AP Varus? Doesn't marksman Varus already suck enough?" Excellent question. Marksman Varus isn't in the Meta right now for a few reasons. He's incredibly immobile, his laning phase is decent at best, and he has an initiate for an ult, which puts him out of position in teamfights.
AP Varus solves a few of these issues. I'll explain, but first off, what scales with AP on Varus? Your primary source of damage is your W, Blighted Quiver. This applies stacks of blight (up to 3) to a target enemy. When a target infected by blight is hit by one of your other abilities, it detonates, dealing magic damage equal to a percent of the target's maximum health. What's neat is that the percentage amount scales with your AP. So at full build, you'll be dealing around 48% of your target's Max health (about 1800 to most late game tanks) as magic damage. Additionally, your ult has a 1:1 AP scaling ratio, with the possibility of hitting up to 5 targets. Lastly, W provides a 25% AP on hit effect to all your auto attacks, making you do significant DPS as well. (This is the same ratio that Kayle has with Righteous Fury.)
All in all, what this means is that when AP Varus initiates with his ult, he initiates hard. You'll be dealing around 850 base damage to the initial target, rooting them for 2 seconds, and then spreading to nearby champions, damaging them as well as rooting them for 2 seconds. You can then auto attack 3 times, and use an ability, which will destroy targets, no matter if they're a tank or not. [If your target has 3500hp, one rotation of blight will deal 1680 magic damage before resistances]
TL;DR AP scaling auto's, 1:1 AP ult, %max target's health W.
First off, the problems with this build and playstyle. The first and most obvious is that your laning phase sucks. No getting around it, it's just awful. You thought Syndra and Xerath were immobile? HAH. At least they have a stun to keep the gank squad off you.
A second problem is that this champion does not snowball. The majority of your damage is percent health, meaning that you will never have enough damage to annihilate someone. On the flipside, you can still stay relevant if you get behind through the same reasoning.
An advantage is that AP Varus is best used as a tank shredder. Doesn't matter if its a Dr. Mundo or a Garen, with some AP, a void staff and a few abilities, you will melt even a late game tank, sometimes doing over 1k damage with just 1 ability.
This isn't the worst as far as passives go, but it is underwhelming. You'll notice the attack speed gains much more late game, and this can help your team fight potential considerably.
The staple on AD varus, this ability allows you to proc your blight easily on multiple targets, and can help you finish off enemies who run away.
This ability is what makes AP Varus tick. The percentage health damage is insane, doing up to 48% percent of your target's health with a full build. The on hit damage is the same ration as Kayle's Righteous Fury (0.25), making your DPS strong as well.
When fighting an enemy, you should be running a count in your head. ADC Varus mains will do this, but its paramount on AP Varus. The count goes 3 autoattacks, ability, 3 auto attacks, ability. In a typical fight (post six) you want to use your ult first, followed by your E, followed by your Q in case they flash away. As mentioned previously, you should try to get 3 auto attacks between each of those. It's not uncommon to initiate with your ult alone, especially in a team fight situation, but this will take your burst down a notch.
Another ability to proc your blight damage, I like to max this ability second because of the increased slow. Since you won't have a support with you early game, you can use this ability to run away more effectively. The increased damage from your Q won't help as much as this ability in the early game.
This is the ability that makes people question why Varus is an ADC. ADC's don't want to initiate fights, so why does Varus have an initiate ultimate? On AP Varus, it becomes a whole lot more useful. A 1:1 AP ratio means that this ability will hit hard. If you hit a cluster of enemies during a teamfight, it will spread to them as well doing 100% of its damage. Not only that, but in the time between firing the ultimate and it spreading to its secondary targets, you can easily get 3 stacks of blight on them using Runaan's Hurricane. AP Varus can win teamfights by himself if played correctly.
Greater Mark of Attack Speed
Greater Quintessence of Ability Power
Greater Glyph of Magic Resist
Greater Seal of Armor
I've begun to take AS marks over magic penetration because they help more with your early game. The AP quints just help your Blighted Quiver pack a tad more punch before you have your core items. Defensive glyphs and seals because of your immobility, they help you survive the laning phase.
My typical mastery set up, go 21 in offense for the attack speed, cooldown reduction, Arcane Blade , and hybrid penetration. the extra 3 in defense doesn't help you as much as 3 in Fleet of Foot will.
Onto the core of the guide, the items. I'll briefly cover what I typically build, along with some other items that I don't think are worth it.
Typical starting items. Similar to Kennen, I like to start Doran's Blade for the early harass/sustain as opposed to the Doran's Ring. The AP of the ring adds to the damage of your W slightly, but since you should only be using your abilities to deal damage to your opponent (and then only after you've given them three stacks of blight), you don't need the bonus mana regen.
Alternatively you can start with a crystalline flask and pots. This is the ideal farming start, and is the safest since your laning phase is so bad. However, for some reason I find it incredibly difficult to farm without a Doran's Blade on Varus. That may be just me, but if you have a similar problem, try the blade.
I used to recommend this item against AP opponents, but now I think differently. This item is great for dueling high burst AP mages, but it gives no AP, meaning your damage is minimal. A Nashor's Tooth will scale into late game much more effectively, and the items that build into it help considerably more than the ingredients for Wit's End
This is textbook on any AP autoattacking champion. This with your passive and the Spellblade mastery make your auto attacks deal 45% of your AP as bonus magic damage. The CDR makes your ult go down to a 66 second cooldown, and the attack speed helps stack blight. You should try to get this as soon as possible.
Because you should be building a Runaan's Hurricane, you don't really need the extra attack speed from Berserker's Greaves, the magic penetration from Sorcerer's Shoes helps your damage considerably more. Keep in mind that magic penetration applies to your ult and blight, but also your on hit effects from Blighted Quiver and Nashor's Tooth.
However, I do not reccomend upgrading your boots until after you've finished Runaan's Hurricane, as the Hurricane is much more important to your relevance.
In general, I hate this item. I hate AD carries who get this item because they think they need the attack speed. This item is only good on a few champions: Teemo, Kayle, Kallista, and AP Varus. The reason it's good on these champions is because their damage comes from their on hit effects, not their attack damage (which gets halved by the item). This makes your DPS effectively triple in team fights. Additionally, on AP Varus it makes your blight go to multiple targets. Because all your abilities have the chance of hitting more than one champion, this means that with really good awareness, you can proc your blight on 2-3 people per spell. This is the reason this item is core on AP Varus. His team fight potential just isn't the same without it.
It also helps you wave clear much faster. If you get into teamfights early, I would reccomend buying this item second.
Now here's where you're about to stop reading. "Maizrim, why would you build a terrible support item on an already terrible champion?" Well I'm going to tell you.
I like buying Twin shadows as my third core item almost every game. What it provides for Varus is invaluable. The bonus movement speed helps with kiting and roaming, the 80AP is nothing to scoff at, and the CDR gets you to 30%. But most of all, the active. Twin Shadows active does everything AD Varus wishes he could do. You see a fed Nidalee running at you? Drop this item, and either run away, OR auto attack a few times, ult the now slowed Nidalee, (easy target) auto some more, and E her for the kill. The same goes for chasing low health targets, or kiting during a team fight. The number of times this item has gotten me a kill or saved my life is ridiculous..
If this isn't your style, or you're already a god at positioning, pick up a Zhonya's Hourglass for the protection and added burst.
These items are all good pickups for the AP/Magic Penetration they provide. I do suggest getting a Void staff every game, just like on any AP carry. Zhonya's is good if you're continuously dived, and is a MUST if the enemy team has a Zed.
Hybrid/Spellvamp items are bad on AP Varus for a few reasons. First, most of your damage is magic damage, be it on hit effects, or your blight. Therefore, a little more AD (especially since you have no armor penetration) is not going to help your DPS as much as more AP would. Additionally, your Blight does NOT proc spellvamp, either through the on-hit effect, or the detonation. In fact the only source of spellvamp you'd be getting is from your ult, which is considered AOE, and so spellvamp would be reduced to 1/3 effectiveness.
I'll update this guide more if it gets any attention. For the most part I'm looking for feedback/conversation. Have you played AP Varus before? What was your experience, and what was your build path? Let me know, and most importantly have fun with this build.